August 3, 2021

Virtual reality, a new ally in liver transplants for children | Innovation

Virtual reality, a new ally in liver transplants for children | Innovation


When the hospital becomes a second home, better than the constant comings and goings are not torture. This is the reality with which the transplanted live together. Recurring visits before, during and after treatment. His life changes from night to morning as they hear the word transplant for the first time. In the more adults, the eternal tests and hospitalization are a part of the process; but, when the patients are minors, so much rationality borders on the chimera. The VTR project (Virtual Transplant Reality), launched by the University Hospital La Paz, seeks to solve this problem by improving psychological attention to children. With the help of this technology, the virtual helps to cope with its reality.

One of the main culprits of the program is Erika Guijarro, director of the initiative. Passionate about technology, this hospital psychologist never hesitated to use the new tools available to her. His therapies improved. The results with their patients, for example with phobiasThey arrived much earlier. And why not take it to pediatric liver transplants? Said and done. As he explains, it is about accompanying all those involved, including family members, in a therapeutic process that will last a lifetime. "In the case of children it is essential to avoid stressful situations. A clear case is with sedation or with the ways. Virtual reality helps us to train them and make everything easier, "he says.

Spain leads worldwide the number of transplants. In the specific case of La Paz, 70% of these interventions in minors are performed in your hospital. Anxo, eight years old, knows the building very well. He is accompanied by his parents from Galicia to receive a new liver. Live in a constant test, in a constant visit to Madrid. The face changes radically when he puts on virtual reality glasses. From serious to fun and cheerful in a single second. "Hala, a shark. Dad, I'm watching an octopus. How big it is! "He exclaims in his room. It is one of the contents that Guijarro has to alleviate his situation. In this case, a walk on the seabed. "It's like a game for them, but the medical staff helps a lot in their work," he says.

The VTR project, designed by four women, is still under development. Its designers do not expect it to be more or less complete for half a year. This is also part of how it was conceived: as a living being in constant growth. The contents in virtual reality that are uploaded to the platform They can be from games to explanations of what tests they will have to undergo. "We involve patients and design a personalized treatment for each of them," says Nana Gómez, president of the HePA Association. For transplants and their relatives it is transcendental because they are more easily aware of the new situation they have to face. No matter how virtual the experiences, a residue of absolute reality is generated.

The initiative seeks to respond to three objectives: prevention, distraction and awareness. Laura Raya, a doctor in virtual reality at the U-tad university center, tries to explain each of them. First is completely related to reducing the impact it will have on the lives of transplanted. "Through virtual reality, they understand what their day to day will be like," he adds. The second one tries that the medical tests do not generate traumas or pain. "They are in a pleasant environment. The glasses transport them to a fun world, "he argues. And the third one is more focused on the follow-up after the transplant and the involvement of the relatives. "The pills are essential to avoid rejection. When they are teenagers, many of them protest against their parents without taking them. This is a big risk, "he says.

It's like a game for them, but the medical staff helps a lot in their work

Virtual reality has become a therapeutic ally. At the bottom of the project lies the intention to extend it to other transplants. The pilots are giving them good results, but, until the program is completed, they will not be able to evaluate the definitive impact it has on patients and family members. The creators would like everything to be faster, and that in the hospital they have integrated technology without problems, but there is a lack of training in this area. For the moment, they enjoy having the poster of world pioneers. Like Anxo, they will come and they will come many times until, finally, they have all the tools they want. He is still waiting for a transplant accompanied by glasses that, like the VTR initiative, seek to turn the virtual into real.

Overcoming the medical aspect for comprehensive care

One of the pretensions of the VTR project lies in turning the medical and physical aspects into an integral care for the patient. As Manuel Lopez, head of pediatric surgery service in La Paz, reasons, the most positive aspect of the initiative is that part of the non-health field. "Society has stopped being passive in decision making. Virtual reality will help us to cover all areas that involve transplants, "he says.

In your hospital they know something about this surgical procedure. Since 1985, they have carried out almost 1,800 interventions in minors. "It will serve to alleviate the emotional, social, economic and labor consequences suffered by the patient and his family," he concludes.

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