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The Freyming-Merlebach hospital has acquired a system using virtual reality for patient rehabilitation - Le Républicain Lorrain - 19/10/2021

In hospital, virtual reality for patient rehabilitation

The Freyming-Merlebach hospital has acquired a system using virtual reality for the rehabilitation of patients. This additional tool allows this reference centre in follow-up care to open up new horizons in therapeutic management.

Virtual reality for patient rehabilitation at Freyming-Merlebach Hospital

Virtual reality is being used in hospitals for therapeutic purposes, for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from various physical pathologies or brain injuries. Photo RL /Stéphane STIFTER

A room in the Freyming-Merlebach hospital, a reference centre for follow-up care and rehabilitation, has been equipped to allow immersion in a virtual world. Inside, a computer, movement sensors on each side of the room, joysticks or trackers that can be attached to the wrists or ankles, and the indispensable virtual reality helmet. This is not a place for staff to relax, but equipment designed to open up new therapeutic avenues.

Freedom from constraints

Developed by health professionals, the Virtualis system "provides an additional tool to support the rehabilitation of our patients", explains Dr Catherine Achour, coordinating physician in physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM). "Studies show the benefits of this system on rehabilitation management, which offers vast possibilities in many areas. Dr Achour says that "the patient is totally immersed in an environment where he can free himself from all environmental and sometimes physical constraints". This makes it possible, in a different, playful way, "to work, for example, on the amplitude of movements, on pathologies of the locomotor apparatus, up to back pain".

There are also diseases related to brain damage, such as hemineglect. "The patient forgets half of his body and also loses half of his visual field. This immersion in the virtual world allows him "to compensate, to learn little by little to reappropriate both his body and space". The doctor also mentions mirror therapy, used in particular for amputees, who often continue to feel pain on the missing limb. The software can simulate this and stimulate the brain to reduce the pain.

Parallel world, real benefits

"It is one tool among others, which comes in addition to the classic global care provided by practitioners, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and also teachers of adapted physical activities," explains Dr Achour. Teams that have been trained and are slowly beginning to get to grips with the machine. "It allows us to vary the way we treat patients, to work differently, with innovative tools," confides Noémie Muller, occupational therapist. "Another advantage is that we can adapt the exercises and their difficulty in real time, depending on the problems and abilities of each individual," and make things evolve smoothly. Thanks to an immersion in a parallel world, but in the end, the benefits are very real.

More than €36,000 has been invested in this equipment, which will soon include "a balance platform, also connected to this virtual reality system", says Estelle Desrumeaux, deputy director of the hospital. This technology will no doubt be deployed throughout the hospital.

By Michel LEVILLAIN - 19 Oct. 2021 - Le Républicain Lorrain

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