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Cyberpsychol Behav. 1999;2(2):125-34. doi: 10.1089/cpb.1999.2.125.

Effects of virtual reality on symptom distress in children receiving chemotherapy.

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  • 1Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4904, USA.


This study tested the premise that virtual reality (VR) as a distraction intervention could mitigate chemotherapy-related symptom distress in children with cancer aged 10-17 years. Cancer treatments are intensive and difficult to endure. Distraction interventions are effective because the individual concentrates on pleasant or interesting stimuli instead of focusing on unpleasant symptoms. VR as a distraction intervention is both immersive and interactive. For this study the individual wore a Virtual IO(R) headset during a single intravenous chemotherapy treatment. Participants chose one of three commercially available, CD ROM-based scenarios: Magic Carpet, Sherlock Holmes Mystery, and Seventh Guest(R). An interrupted time series design with removed treatment was used to answer these research questions: (1) Is VR an effective distraction intervention for reducing chemotherapy-related symptom distress in children? and (2) Does VR have a lasting effect? The convenience sample consisted of 11 children receiving outpatient chemotherapy. The Symptom Distress Scale (SDS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC-1) were used to measure the dependent variable of symptom distress. Repeated-measures ANOVA were used for data analysis. Data analysis of the SDS suggested that the VR intervention was effective at reducing the level of symptom distress immediately following the chemotherapy treatment (p <.10), but did not have a lasting effect. Analysis of the STAIC-1 demonstrated high levels of anxiety during the initial chemotherapy treatment that decreased during subsequent treatments. State anxiety levels were not influenced by the VR intervention. This study supports the application of VR as a distraction intervention.

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