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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02508


 Barbara Atzori1,  Hunter G. Hoffman2*,  laura vagnoli3, 4, David R. Patterson5, Wadee Alhalabi6, Andrea Messeri4 and  Rosapia Lauro Grotto7
  • 1Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy
  • 2University of Washington, United States
  • 3Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Meyer, Italy
  • 4Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Meyer, Italy
  • 5Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, United States
  • 6Effat University, Saudi Arabia
  • 7Dipartimento di Scienze della Salute, Università di Firenze, Italy


Background. Venipuncture is described by children as one of the most painful and frightening medical procedures.
Objective. To evaluate the effectiveness of Virtual Reality (VR) as a distraction technique to control pain in children and adolescents undergoing venipuncture.
Methods. Using a within-subjects design, fifteen patients (mean age 10.92, SD = 2.64) suffering from oncological or hematological diseases received one venipuncture with “No VR” and one venipuncture with “Yes VR” in two separate days (treatment order randomized). “Worst pain”, “Pain unpleasantness”, “Time spent thinking about pain”, the quality of VR experience, fun and nausea were measured.
Results. During VR, patients reported significant reductions in “Time spent thinking about pain”, “Pain unpleasantness” and “Worst pain”. Patients also reported significantly more of fun during and reported a “Strong sense of going inside the computer-generated world” during VR. No side effects were reported
Conclusions. VR can be considered an effective distraction technique for children and adolescents’ pain management during venipuncture. Moreover, VR may elicit positive emotions, more than traditional distraction techniques. This could help patients cope with venipuncture in a non-stressful manner. Additional research and development is needed.

Keywords: virtual reality, Children, adolescents, Pain, pediatric cancer, distraction

Received: 01 Oct 2018; Accepted: 26 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Federica Pallavicini, Università degli studi di Milano Bicocca, Italy

Reviewed by:

Paula Goolkasian, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, United States
Karel Allegaert, University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium  

Copyright: © 2018 Atzori, Hoffman, vagnoli, Patterson, Alhalabi, Messeri and Lauro Grotto. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Hunter G. Hoffman, University of Washington, Seattle, United States,