Here's how virtual reality headsets are helping calm kids before surgery in South Bay

Zach Fuentes Image
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Virtual reality headsets used to help calm kids before surgery
In the South Bay, virtual reality headsets are being used to help kids calm down before surgery.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Surgery is no fun for patients of any age but for children, it can be especially frightening.

In the South Bay, virtual reality headsets are being used to help kids calm down before surgery.

ABC7 News cameras were there as 7-year-old Naiya tested the technology out.

"I saw a fire pit and there was a big window with mountains and the galaxy," she said.

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Naiya tried out the new goggles at Sutter Ambulatory Care Center and Surgery Center in San Jose.

A three-story building, its surgery center opens Aug. 1 and boasts state-of-the art technology.

"We're trying to push forward and be on the edge of technology, but most importantly, help our patients," said Dr. Allen Sue. "And make sure they have a very well-rounded and a comfortable experience here."

That includes the virtual reality headsets that have both patients and doctors especially excited.

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They're planned to be used to calm kids about to undergo a number of surgeries like having tonsils removed or ear tubes placed.

The technology used in the headsets is intentional, based on meditative research.

The kids get to choose an avatar that helps them through calming exercises.

"What the avatar tells them to do is to breathe in and out with the avatar's wings and follow the avatar around," Dr. Paul Elcavage said. "(It) helps them breathe more naturally, helps slow down their breathing, and then, relax them, reduce their anxiety."

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Started as a pilot program, the hope is to make access to the VR headsets available to as many young patients as possible.

"I'm hoping that we can allow the kids to wear these VR headsets into the operating room," Dr. Elcavage said. "So then this way, they don't see any of this scary stuff, all they see is their avatar that they've befriended and are following around."

More of the virtual headsets will be rolled out to other Sutter Health facilities throughout the summer.

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