Implementation of virtual reality preparation for anxious patients in MRI

NHS Highland

This project is under way, and will run until April 2020.

  • Project led by NHS Highland, in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland. 
  • Aiming to reduce the need for general anaesthetic in MRI scans for children, and to increase MRI compliance in adult patients who are claustrophobic.
  • Will implement a novel resource that uses virtual reality technology to allow patients to experience having an MRI prior to their actual scan.

The claustrophobic and noisy environment of MRI can be difficult for some patients to tolerate. This can lead to decreased image quality or the scan needing to be stopped, which in turn results in delays to patient care and the need to re-do the scan under sedation or general anaesthetic. 

In NHS Highland, over 100 adult patients a year are unable to complete an MRI scan due to claustrophobia. MRI scans on children can be particularly problematic due to movement and non-compliance, at times resulting in the need for a general anaesthetic.

This project will involve using a virtual reality MRI experience for adult and child patients at NHS Highland, as a preparation resource for their upcoming MRI scan. It will be accessible as an interactive app for a mobile phone or tablet, to be used with a virtual reality headset.

The app will use virtual reality to take the patient to the MRI department and walk them through the entire MRI journey. Patients will be able to explore the various rooms and experience the journey as they would on the day of their scan, including hearing the noise of the scanner. 

Patients will be able to access the resource at the hospital, or remotely with virtual reality headsets being posted to them.

It is hoped that the resource will reduce the need for patients to have their MRI scan done under general anaesthetic, increase compliance and reduce movement during the MRI scan, and improve the patient experience. 

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Jonathan Ashmore, Principal Clinical Scientist, NHS Highland.

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