Digital Anesthesia

IDL and its collaborators at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center are creating a new form of pain relief: DIGITAL ANESTHESIA.


What is Digital Anesthesia?

Digital Anesthesia is the application of virtual reality technology to produce total or partial loss of sensation, such as the application of digital anesthesia for patients who may not respond to or are contra-indicated against the use of drug or other substance-induced forms of anesthesia.

The Digital Anesthesia at IDL project began 18 months ago by observing children with Ataxia-Telangiectasia, or "A-T." This is a progressive, degenerative disease that involves degradation of muscle control and leads ultimately to immobility (e.g., being confined to a wheelchair) along with the hallmark, although harmless, signature feature called, “telangiectasia," which are tiny red "spider" veins seen on the eyes or surface of ears and cheeks of A-T patients when they are exposed to sunlight. 

Collaborators at IDL have observed children with A-T and videotaped their experiences at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Through this observation, we noted A-T patients’ level of concentration was especially adept at engaging video games but these patients were paradoxically challenged with otherwise “ordinary” tasks, like holding a glass of water.

Today, we are developing specific content appropriate for Digital Anesthesia and will be applied to patients at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. This content is both age- and gender-sensitive. In 6 months, we plan to test our Digital Anesthesia prototypes within the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Understanding that each patient may be challenged to interact with the Digital Anesthesia technologies, we are also exploring multiple interface applications tailored to each patient’s capabilities (e.g., ability to interface with parts of the body other than hands and fingers). We plan to test the Digital Anesthesia system in a controlled environment, applying our prototypes to patients undergoing specific hospital-based procedures that routinely result in pain, with the intention of eliminating or ameliorating pain without the need for drugs or other anesthesia substances.