Early rehabilitative mobilization for adolescents is safe and feasible. However, there is a lack of published rehabilitation strategies and treatments that can maximize engagement and outcomes among adolescents in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Virtual reality (VR) gaming using a head-mounted display (HMD) and adaptive software can allow active and nonactive gameplay at the bedside for people with limited arm mobility, making it a potentially inclusive and enjoyable treatment modality for adolescents in the PICU.
The purpose of this brief case study is to report on the preliminary feasibility of incorporating adaptive VR gaming using an HMD with 2 adolescents who received early mobility treatment within the PICU.
This study was a mini-ethnographic investigation of 2 adolescents (a 15-year-old male and a 13-year old male) in the PICU who underwent VR gaming sessions as part of their early mobilization care, using an Oculus Rift HMD and adaptive software (WalkinVR) that promoted full gameplay in bed. The Rift was plugged into a gaming laptop that was set up on a table within the patient’s room before each session. The intervention was delivered by an adapted exercise professional and supervised by a physical therapist. Patients had access to a variety of active games (eg, boxing, rhythmic movement to music, and exploratory adventure) and nonactive games (eg, racing and narrative adventure). Gaming sessions were scheduled between usual care, when tolerable and requested by the participant. The interventionist and therapists took audio-recorded and written notes after completing each gaming session. These data were analyzed and presented in a narrative format from the perspective of the research team.
Case 1 participated in 4 gaming sessions, with an average of 18 minutes (SD 11) per session. Case 2 participated in 2 sessions, with an average of 35 minutes (SD 7) per session. Both cases were capable of performing active gaming at a moderate level of exercise intensity, as indicated by their heart rate. However, their health and symptoms fluctuated on a daily basis, which prompted the gameplay of adventure or nonactive games. Gameplay appeared to improve participants’ affect and alertness and motivate them to be more engaged in early mobilization therapy. Gameplay without the WalkinVR software caused several usability issues. There were no serious adverse events, but both cases experienced symptoms based on their condition.
The findings of this study suggest that VR gaming with HMDs and adaptive software is likely a feasible supplement to usual care for adolescents within the PICU, and these findings warrant further investigation. Recommendations for future studies aimed at incorporating VR gaming during early mobilization are presented herein.