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Freaking out about a minor medical procedure? Video glasses can help

You need a biopsy, or some other kind of minimally invasive treatment, and you are feeling anxious. Nothing is likely to go wrong, but you're still worried. 

Would pre-procedure hypnosis help? Maybe. Soft music? Possibly. But a small study presented Monday at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 39th annual meeting, suggests that donning a pair of video glasses that displays a movie or television show only you can see is likely to help you the most. 

"Whether they were watching a children's movie or nature show, patients wearing video glasses were successful at tuning out their surroundings," said David L. Waldman, chairman of the department of imaging sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., and lead author of the study. "It's an effective distraction technique that helps focus the individual's attention away from the treatment."

While dentists have been using video glasses and TV screens to distract their patients for years, this is the first time the technique has been tested in interventional radiology treatments. 

The study involved 49 patients between ages 18 and 87. Each of them was getting a minor outpatient treatment -- a biopsy or a catheter in the arm or chest. Twenty-five of the patients were given video glasses during their procedures. The other half got nothing.

Volunteers filled out a stress form before and after the procedure to indicate how anxious they were. The researchers found that people who used the video glasses said they were on average 18.1% less anxious after their treatment. People who did not use the glasses were only 7.5% less anxious.

The researchers found the glasses were especially helpful to women, and to people who were the most anxious before their procedure.

Because the glasses are just a little bigger than sunglasses, they are not in the way and do not pose any hazards, the researchers say. 

And who wouldn't rather watch a TV show instead of a needle going into your arm?

For more stories from the world of science and health, follow me on Twitter.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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