Virtual reality used to distract children and young people with long‐term conditions from pain or pruritus: A scoping review using PAGER

Heidi Singleton, Preeti Mahato, Emily Arden-Close, Sarah Thomas, Steven Ersser, Debbie Holley, Xiaosong Yang, Amanda Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and Objectives: To map out the primary research studies relating to how virtual reality (VR) has been used to distract children and young people with long-term condi-tions from pain or pruritus.Background: Pharmacologic treatment of chronic pain and pruritus may have side ef-fects; hence, non-invasive non-pharmacological treatments are being sought.Design: The scoping review followed the methodology recommended by the Joanna Briggs Institute, PAGER framework and PRISMA-ScR checklist. The protocol was registered with the Open Science Registration on 14 February 2022 https// Five databases (Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science and Scopus) were searched. Data were extracted from primary research studies published be-tween 2000 and 2022 involving children and adolescent populations (<21 years) with a long-term condition that had an element of enduring pruritus and/or pain.Results: Of 464 abstracts screened, 35 full-text papers were assessed with 5 studies meeting the eligibility criteria. Three main themes emerged from the included stud-ies: (1) Improvements in pain and daily functioning; (2) positive perceptions of VR and (3) accessibility and feasibility of VR. No papers were found on the effect of VR on alleviating pruritus.Conclusion: VR is feasible, acceptable, and safe for children and adolescents with chronic pain in a range of long-term conditions and offers promise as an adjunctive treatment for improving chronic pain and quality of life. No studies were identified that targeted pruritis or measured pruritis outcomes; thus, the effects of VR for pru-ritis are unknown. There is a need for rigorously designed, randomised controlled trials to test the clinical and cost-effectiveness of VR interventions for chronic pain and pruritis in children and adolescents. The use of the PAGER (Patterns, Advances,Gaps, Evidence for Practice and Research Recommendations) framework for scoping reviews helped to structure analysis and findings and identify research gaps.Relevance to Clinical Practice: VR interventions offer promise in improving chronic pain related to long-term conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Early online date14 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Nov 2023


  • children's nursing
  • chronic itch
  • chronic pain
  • digital health
  • non-pharmacological
  • Virtual Reality

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