Immersive virtual reality analgesia for pediatric burn patients with large severe burn wounds during wound debridement in the ICU

Hunter Hoffman, Ph.D., (with sister HITLabs in Christchurch and Tasmania).

Director of the VR Research Center at the Human Photonics Lab,

ME Dept, University of Washington, Seattle, WA., USA

And Distinguished Adjunct Professor, Computer Science, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


Using a custom water-friendly VR system with a robot-like goggle holder to hold the VR goggles near the patient without touching their face, children with large severe burn injuries (40% TBSA) reported significant reductions in pain intensity while playing SnowWorld during burn wound care in the ICU hydrotank at Shriners Children’s Texas, a regional burn center in Galveston TX, USA.  In multi-billion dollar R&D competitions between big tech companies scrambling to dominate the large emerging mainstream consumer VR markets, immersive Virtual Reality is quickly evolving into an unusually powerful, highly immersive, very affordable, easy to use and widely available technology with demonstrated potential as an adjunctive non-pharmacologic analgesic for burn patients (although face and head burns continue to be a challenge to wearing a conventional VR helmet).


Hunter Hoffman, Ph.D. is the Director of the Virtual Reality Research Center at the University of Washington, Seattle, and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor in Computer Science at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah Saudi Arabia.

In 1997, Hoffman discovered/originated the technique of using immersive virtual reality as an adjunctive non-pharmacologic analgesic for patients during painful burn wound debridement and range of motion exercise, in collaboration with NIH funded pain researcher David Patterson at UW Rehab medicine and Harborview Burn Center in Seattle.  Hoffman, Patterson, and Walter J. Meyer III MD from Texas have recently conducted joint research using VR distraction to reduce pain in children with unusually large severe burn wound injuries at Harborview Burn Center and Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston Texas. Hoffman is also collaborating as a minor author with researchers at the University of Montreal, using VR distraction to reduce the pain of young children (average age 2 years old) during burn wound care.

Hoffman designed SnowWorld, the first VR world designed for treating pain.

Hoffman (and Jeff Magula) designed the robot-like arm goggle holder to distract severely burned children and soldiers with combat-related burn injuries, that could not wear a VR helmet due to face/head burns.

Hoffman was identified by as one of the Fast 50 people most likely to influence the next 10 years.

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