Sheffield Children's Hospital uses fantasy on-screen games to help young burns patients cope with pain

A new computer game which turns treatment rooms into fantasy worlds is helping young burns patients at Sheffield Children’s Hospital cope with their treatment.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 1:11 pm

The Children’s Hospital Charity’s arts programme, Artfelt, has collaborated with designers Megaverse to deliver an augmented reality game to help patients through their treatment with burns-related injuries.

This innovative application transforms the treatment room into a virtual environment to help children and young people recovering from burn injuries.

The idea is to distract patients while they’re being treated and it is one of the first times that an augmented reality app has been used in this way.

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Sheffield Children's Hospital patient Marnie-Jayne and mum Samantha playing an augmented reality game that helps patients through their treatment with burns-related injuries

It aims to reduce stress and anxiety around treatments such as wound dressings. The reduction of stress hormones has been shown to improve wound healing, which in turn potentially reduces the development of scarring.

Through the app, the treatment rooms are transformed into an exciting array of arctic and woodland worlds that come to life through an iPad.

The artwork on the walls forms for the backdrop for the game, with a calming 3-D soundscape complete with a variety of layers to ensure it does not become repetitive for those undergoing longer procedures.

The game was designed to appeal to patients of a varying ages and abilities, as well as be suitable for a wide range of medical procedures that vary in length, direction and movement.

A wireless charging wall was also developed with the University of Sheffield, allowing the game to load instantly.

Patients interact via screen-based gestures, which allows them to explore and find creatures to interact with.

Various tapping interactions have also been added after early research found younger children enjoyed triggering sound effects.

Dr Charlotte Wright, senior clinical psychologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “Procedural anxiety is usually due to a fear of pain, or memories of similar negative experiences.

“This can make repeated dressing changes following a burn increasingly distressing for a child, their family and our team.

“Negative experiences in hospital can hinder a patient’s ability to cope with their burn injury and can increase wider symptoms of anxiety and trauma.

“Distraction has been identified as a useful non-pharmacological intervention for pain and procedural anxiety and using the Artfelt distraction app can help our patients cope with potentially painful procedures.

“The feedback from both patients and the staff team has been very positive!”

Clinical Nurse Specialist Liz Nicholls said children returning for appointments are asking to use the game.

Seven-year-old Marnie-Jayne Smith from Goole suffered painful superficial burns down her right side and along her arm after an accident while her mum Samantha was cooking.

Samantha said “At the start, she was very brave with the dressings but as the days have gone by, you can see she’s been getting nervous on the journey and going quiet. The last few times she just didn’t want to do it.

“She absolutely loved the penguin game. When she played it, she was completely distracted and didn’t even notice them dressing. She’s already asked to use it next time.

“It’s great that The Children’s Hospital Charity are doing these things to keep children entertained and boost them during their recovery.”