"Video game" helps former Marine manage pain from severe burns

Former Marine Josh McDaniel likes playing "shoot'em up" video games.

But he credits those games for helping him through one of the most difficult times in his life.

"My face was completely burned off. My swimming shorts melted to my legs."

McDaniel was severely burned during an on-base barbeque when a fellow marine threw a flammable liquid on the grill.

"It splashed the chemical over my whole body,” he said. “I went up like a match."

With severe burns covering about 60 percent of his body, McDaniel visited the Defense Department's US Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas. During his painful recovery, McDaniel volunteered to take part in a research study.

He helped Doctor Christopher Maani test out a virtual reality pain-management tool called Snow World.

Looking through high-tech goggles, he launches snowballs at penguins and snowmen through an icy canyon as music by Paul Simon plays.

"You're going to be controlling the mouse. You can project those snowballs anywhere you want, anytime you want,” Maani explained as McDaniel gave it a try.

The immersion in the arctic environment “triggers the memory of cold."

McDaniel said he forgot about the painful daily cleaning and dressing of his wounds. "It's the only time that I actually did not feel pain."
Doctor Maani says his study shows Snow World decreased burn patients’ pain and the need for heavy pain medication during treatments—findings that could improve a victim's overall rehab and state of mind.

"We're keeping him more comfortable and reducing the amount of pain medications,” Maani explained. “Now, as soon as we take the goggles off, they're right back to being awake."

The effects of a pain chiller that helped josh during his incredible recovery.



REPORT: MB #3346

BACKGROUND: In the United States, approximately 2.4 million burn injuries are reported per year. Of those hospitalized, 20,000 have major burns involving at least 25 percent of their total body surface. Between 8,000 and 12,000 of patients with burns die, and approximately one million will sustain substantial or permanent disabilities resulting from their burn injury. (SOURCE: Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation)
TYPES: There are three levels of burns:
* First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin. They cause pain, redness, and swelling.
* Second-degree (partial thickness) burns affect both the outer and underlying layer of skin. They cause pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.
* Third-degree (full thickness) burns extend into deeper tissues. They cause white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)
LIFESTYLE: Burns are one of the most expensive catastrophic injuries to treat. For example, a burn of 30 percent of total body area can cost as much as $200,000 in initial hospitalization costs and for physician's fees. For extensive burns, there are additional significant costs, which will include costs for repeat admission for reconstruction and for rehabilitation.
CHILLING DISCOVERY: The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) Burn Center in San Antonio, Texas is collaborating with researchers at the University of Washington to investigate whether a new virtual reality game called "SnowWorld" can help lessen the pain of treatment for combat burns.
SnowWorld is a virtual reality system that lets users walk through wintry environments and lob snowballs at stationary targets. The cool imagery and immersive game play are proving in early tests to be a viable alternative to strong drugs that leave patients dazed and disconnected. The previous research showed that not only do patients report less pain while playing SnowWorld, but fMRI scans also show that virtual reality reduces the brain's pain signals.
Because SnowWorld has been so effective with burn patients, the researchers hope to make the virtual reality game part of everyday practice. For use with combat veterans, who may have burns on their heads and faces, they built an articulated arm to position the VR goggles the patients use, instead of having to wear a helmet. (SOURCE: Science Central)

Dr. Christopher V. Maani
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted
you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com.

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