Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Procedural Pain in Children With Cancer

Official Title

Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Procedural Pain in Children With Cancer: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial


This study will assess the impact of virtual reality (VR) in decreasing procedural pain related to subcutaneous port (SCP) access in children with cancer. The study is a pilot-randomized controlled trial (RCT) using a cross-over design that will provide us with detailed information on the feasibility of implementing our trial protocol in a future multi-centre RCT as well as preliminary estimate of VR treatment effect on children with cancer undergoing SCP access, including child and parent factors potentially associated with VR distraction treatment efficacy.

Trial Description

Primary Outcome:

  • Accural Rates/Retention Rates
  • Acceptability
  • Outcome measure feasibility
  • Technical Difficulties/Practical Difficulties
Secondary Outcome:
  • Pain Intensity
  • Child Distress
  • Child Fear
  • Child Pain Catastrophizing
  • Parent Pain Catastrophizing
  • Parent Distress
The study is a repeated-measures cross-over pilot RCT to examine the feasibility of the trial protocol for a study into the effectiveness of immersive VR in minimizing procedural pain and distress in children with cancer. The research objectives are to: (1) pilot implementing immersive virtual reality (VR) for effectiveness testing in a future RCT (measured as implementation outcomes); (2) determine treatment effect sizes (measured as preliminary effectiveness outcomes), between VR, programmed to distract children during an SCP needle insertion, and an active control intervention (i.e., watching a video with headphones); and (3) assess impact of child and parent factors potentially associated with VR treatment effectiveness. Both the intervention and control groups will receive standard medical care (e.g., topical anesthetics). A convenience sample of 40 children and adolescents with cancer (20 participants per treatment arm; 10 boys and 10 girls per treatment arm) will be recruited. In addition, each child will act as their own control. A washout period of 1 month will be used to control for any carry-over effect between conditions. In addition to usual care, children in the experimental condition will wear the VR headset plus headphones. In the control condition, children will watch a video (i.e., an age-appropriate video selected by an oncology-affiliated child life specialist) on an iPad, while wearing the same headphones as in the experimental condition. Implementation outcomes include accrual and retention rates, acceptability and technical difficulties. Effectiveness outcomes include child pain, distress, and fear, as well as parent distress.

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Canadian Cancer Society

These resources are provided in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society