La Fe Hospital will use virtual reality to eliminate anxiety in pediatric radiotherapy treatments

La Fe Hospital will use virtual reality to eliminate anxiety in pediatric radiotherapy treatments

  • The Pediatric Oncology and Radiotherapy Unit of the Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe will use, for the first time in the Valencian Community, ‘I am Ready ́ by the Ricky Rubio Foundation.
  • The initiative plans to prepare more than 40 children with cancer to start their radiotherapy treatment with the use of virtual reality.

Radiation therapy is one of the most successful cancer treatments in terms of cure and improved quality of life, but for children diagnosed with cancer, radiation therapy can be an unfamiliar and unsettling experience. Preventing the impact of the disease and treatment from taking its toll on children at a personal and family level is the objective of ‘I am Ready’, a program of Nixi for Children and The Ricky Rubio Foundation that will be implemented for the first time at the Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe.

“Thanks to this excellent initiative, our young patients will be able to reduce the anxiety that can be caused by the lack of knowledge about radiotherapy treatment, using preparatory virtual reality that combines real 360o images with a 3D animated character (Nixi). It is undoubtedly a more comprehensible and visual tool than all our explanations at those ages,” explains Érika Collado, a specialist in Radiation Oncology at La Fe Hospital.

“It helps us to improve the humanization of radiotherapy treatments in children, reducing the stress that this can cause both them and their families, empowering them in an enjoyable way with an easy-to-use tool,” adds Antonio J. Conde, head of the Radiation Oncology section at La Fe Hospital.

Avoiding sedation in the very young
When pediatric patients receive radiation therapy, they are completely alone in the treatment unit. It is very common to resort to sedation when they are unable to lie still, especially in patients under 6 years of age. However, in older children, sedation during radiotherapy can be avoidable, and this is what ‘I am Ready’ aims to achieve by eliminating the fear of children and their family environment, transforming radiotherapy into a more natural process.

The technique promoted by Nixi for Children has already been applied with clinically proven efficacy in the preoperative rooms of several hospitals in Spain and in radiotherapy sessions since last year in pediatric oncology at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona. The first kits are also being distributed in the USA through The Ricky Rubio Foundation.

Each radiotherapy session lasts an average of 15 minutes, during which the children have to remain still to ensure the accuracy of the treatment in a radiation shielded room while they are monitored externally by cameras. They usually receive about 25 sessions on average on consecutive days, so avoiding sedation is essential for their health.

With Nixi for Children, children and parents become familiar with the sessions thanks to this virtual reality that suppresses anxiety to the unknown and prepares the sessions. After living a personal experience close to cancer as a teenager, Tomàs Lóbez, decided to found Nixi for Children in 2019 to help improve the lives of children in the hospital. The first project delved into the use of virtual reality for the reduction of preoperative anxiety through emotional preparation of children. “We believe that virtual reality empowers children, gives them tools to face their hospitalization without fear.”

After validating their technology in a clinical trial, with ‘I am Ready’ they hope to expand their lines of work to reach more patients and their families. The Ricky Rubio Foundation, which develops projects in the fight against lung cancer and promotes sports as a tool for inclusion and integration of children and young people at risk of social exclusion, offers special support to all those therapies and emotional solutions and clinical support, especially in the field of pediatric oncology.