Virtual reality for improving pain and pain-related symptoms in patients with advanced stage colorectal cancer: A pilot trial to test feasibility and acceptability.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVE: Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to improve pain and pain-related symptoms. We examined the feasibility, acceptability, safety, and impact of a 30-min virtual underwater/sea environment (VR Blue) for reducing pain and pain-related symptoms in advanced colorectal cancer patients. A qualitative exit interview was conducted to understand preferences, thoughts, and feelings about the VR session. METHOD: Participants (N = 20) had stage IV colorectal cancer and moderate-to-severe pain. Participants completed a 30-min VR Blue session that visually and aurally immersed them in virtual ocean scenarios. Feasibility was assessed by accrual (N = 20), protocol adherence (≥80% completing VR Blue), and completed data (≥80% assessment completion). Acceptability was determined by patients reporting ≥80% intervention satisfaction. Safety was determined by ≥80% of patients completing the session without self-reported side effects. Measures of pain, tension, relaxation, stress, anxiety, and mood were collected before, during, and after the VR Blue session. A semi-structured qualitative interview was conducted after VR Blue to assess participants' VR experiences. RESULTS: All participants (100%) completed the VR Blue session. There was 100% data collection at the pre- and post-assessments. Satisfaction with VR Blue was high M = 3.3 (SD = 0.4) (83%). No significant side effects were reported. Pain decreased by 59% (Pre-M = 3 [1]; Post-M = 1 [1]). Tension decreased by 74% (Pre-M = 30 [24]; Post-M = 8 [13]). Relaxation improved by 38% (Pre-M = 62 [21]); Post-M = 86 [17]). Stress decreased by 68% (Pre-M = 24 [24]; Post-M = 8 [14]). Anxiety decreased by 65% (Pre-M = 20 [23]; Post-M = 7 [13]). Mood improved by 70% (Pre-M = 13 [16]; Post-M = 4 [11]). Qualitative data suggested a positive response to the VR Blue protocol. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: This work supports the feasibility, acceptability, and safety of VR Blue for advanced colorectal cancer patients. Participants showed significant pre-post improvement in pain and pain-related symptoms hinting to the potential feasibility of VR interventions in this population. Larger, randomized trials with a control condition are needed to examine the efficacy of VR-based interventions for patients with advanced colorectal cancer and pain.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kelleher, SA; Fisher, HM; Winger, JG; Miller, SN; Amaden, GH; Somers, TJ; Colloca, L; Uronis, HE; Keefe, FJ

Published Date

  • August 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 20 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 471 - 481

PubMed ID

  • 35078545

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9314453

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1478-9523

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S1478951521002017


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England