The body of evidence to support virtual reality (VR) as a therapeutic modality will increasingly involve the GI tract, according to a talk by Brennan Spiegel, MD, AGAF, at the 2019 AGA Tech Summit, the annual meeting of the AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology.
“The field of gastroenterology is a particularly promising area for VR-based treatment because of the well-established brain-gut interaction,” explained Dr. Spiegel, director of health services research for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. He said this tool has now been shown repeatedly to change how patients experience their symptoms in a variety of clinical contexts.
Dr. Spiegel envisions applications in functional diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), in which there is already strong evidence of a mind-gut component to symptom flares. He said, “VR can help patients engage with their body differently, changing how they react to symptoms and leading to better coping mechanisms.”
In one example, Dr. Spiegel displayed a video of a woman experiencing severe pain due to liver ascites testifying to substantial pain relief after a VR experience that included images that took her far from her hospital room. He reported that gastrointestinal pain relief is so consistent with VR treatment that failure to respond prompts him to reevaluate patients for missed organic pathology.
Read the full session recap in GI & Hepatology News.