Children must often endure painful procedures as part of their treatment for various medical conditions. Those with chronic pain endure frequent or constant discomfort in their daily lives, sometimes severely limiting their physical capacities. With the advent of affordable consumer-grade equipment, clinicians have access to a promising and engaging intervention for pediatric pain, both acute and chronic. In addition to providing relief from acute and procedural pain, virtual reality (VR) may also help to provide a corrective psychological and physiological environment to facilitate rehabilitation for pediatric patients suffering from chronic pain. The special qualities of VR such as presence, interactivity, customization, social interaction, and embodiment allow it to be accepted by children and adolescents and incorporated successfully into their existing medical therapies. However, the powerful and transformative nature of many VR experiences may also pose some risks and should be utilized with caution. In this paper, we review recent literature in pediatric virtual reality for procedural pain and anxiety, acute and chronic pain, and some rehabilitation applications. We also discuss the practical considerations of using VR in pediatric care, and offer specific suggestions and information for clinicians wishing to adopt these engaging therapies into their daily clinical practice.
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