Using virtual reality to control preoperative anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients: A pilot study in maxillofacial and plastic surgery.


Preoperative anxiety may lead to medical and surgical complications, behavioral problems and emotional distress. The most common means of prevention are based on using medication and, more recently, hypnosis. The aim of our study was to determine whether a virtual reality (VR) program presenting natural scenes could be part of a new therapy to reduce patients' preoperative anxiety.


Our prospective pilot study consisted of a single-blind trial in skin cancer surgery at the Henri Mondor Teaching Hospital in France. In the outpatient surgery department, 20 patients with a score of > 11 on the Amsterdam Preoperative Anxiety and Information Scale (APAIS) were virtually immersed into a natural universe for 5minutes. Their stress levels were assessed before and after this experience by making use of a visual analog scale (VAS), by measuring salivary cortisol levels, and by determining physiological stress based on heart coherence scores.


The VAS score was significantly reduced after the simulation (p<0.009) as was the level of salivary cortisol (p<0.04). Heart coherence scores remained unchanged (p=0.056).


VR allows patients to be immersed in a relaxing, peaceful environment. It represents a noninvasive way to reduce preoperative stress levels with no side effects and no need for additional medical or paramedical staff. Our results indicate that VR may provide an effective complementary technique to manage stress in surgery patients. Randomized trials are necessary to determine precise methods and benefits.