Immersive Virtual Reality Helps Pediatric Patients with Pain and Anxiety During Painful Prodecures

A first-of-its-kind randomized clinical trial of 107 pediatric patients led by Jeffery Gold, Ph.D. found that an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience significantly decreased pain and anxiety over standard care among patients undergoing peripheral intervenous catheter (PIVC) placement.

“Few VR studies have conducted prospective randomized clinical trials with a large cohort. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to prospectively investigate a large cohort across 2 clinical settings (a radiology department and an infusion center). The study’s results support the effectiveness of VR in both settings, with no significant differences between settings found, and they extend the findings reported in a 2018 study of VR use among patients receiving phlebotomy,” wrote the authors.

The authors note that though their study investigates a specific procedure—PIVC—additional studies can widen the scope of medication-free pain management. “Future research on reducing pain and anxiety during medical procedures (eg, magnetic resonance imaging, PIVC placement, lumbar puncture, otolaryngologic procedures, and cast removal) may benefit from examining interventions that reduce or eliminate the use of medications (ie, anxiolytic and narcotic drugs).”

Using VR-based pain mitigation may be beneficial in the long run. “Harnessing the innovation and accessibility of VR to deliver nonpharmacological interventions for routine painful medical procedures may have substantial physiological and mental health implications,” Gold, et al, wrote.


Gold JI, SooHoo M, Laikin AM, Lane AS, Klein MJ. Effect of an Immersive Virtual Reality Intervention on Pain and Anxiety Associated With Peripheral Intravenous Catheter Placement in the Pediatric Setting: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(8):e2122569. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.22569 Accessed August 30, 2021, at

Ridley, Erik L. Virtual reality reduces pain for kids during PIVC placement. August 27, 2021, Accessed August 30, 2021, at