Video Games: The New Non-Pharmacological Painkillers?

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A ground-breaking study reveals that kids with cancer suffer up to 33% less when playing video games which also boost their recovery

Up to 33% less pain, 20% less morphine and a swifter recovery by 14%. This is how video games help kids fighting cancer, new study shows. It’s a world first! Conducted by the Juegaterapia Foundation at the Hospital La Paz (Madrid, Spain) in partnership with Mdoloris, specialist in medical pain monitoring technologies, the study focuses on children suffering from post-chemotherapy mucositis, which is one of the most painful side effects of this treatment. After one year of daily monitoring, the results are compelling: video games are far from just a leisure-time activity and might, one day, join health care protocols for pediatric cancer. The research has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study that breaks the myths on gaming

For the last year, children with leukemia at the Hospital La Paz in Madrid (Spain) have been playing video games as part of a one-of-a-kind scientific study: the effects of gaming in cancer therapy. The study had a unique inclusion criteria. It was conducted on 20 children (11 girls and 9 boys) suffering from mucositis, the most painful but relatively frequent side effect of chemotherapy which makes even gulping impossible. Their pain levels were continuously monitored by the Mdoloris ANI[1] pain monitoring devices meanwhile, the children would get to play on the latest generation SONY game consoles and tablets, donated by the Fondation Juegaterapia. Where other techniques had failed[2], the Mdoloris edge-cutting technology allowed the team to discover a world first: gaming might just be a new way to help children beat cancer.

Francisco Reinoso-Barbero, Head of the Pain Management Unit in the Children’s Hospital La Paz (Madrid) and co-author of this research, says: “The psychological benefits of playing have been demonstrated before. Thanks to the Mdoloris technology, it is the first time that the impact of gaming on handling acute pain and the body’s response are measured, accurately and objectively. Not only do children suffer less, but they could heal faster and  respond better to treatment! The medical implications of these discoveries are huge. We believe that video games could become a part of the non-pharmacological therapeutical plan against pediatric cancer mucositis, and more”.

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Fabien Pagniez, CEO and founder of Mdoloris, says “It was an honor to see that our technology contributed to this ground-breaking discovery. We created the Mdoloris technology to help medical experts assess pain objectively and administer the correct analgesics dosage by using a unique indicator, the parasympathetic tone. In cancer patients, such monitoring is a matter of life and death. For the first time, our technology helped prove that there is a direct link between this psychological and the physiological conditions in pediatric cancer while playing video games. Gaming helps fight against it and improves the patient’s quality of life and healing response. This study breaks all the myths!”

The study, in numbers

1. Up to 33% decrease in pain

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During this research, the Mdoloris monitoring device helped establish a 14% decrease of the pain level in average, , reaching as much as 33% in some cases. Other methods such as the video-pupilmetrics Algiscan R showed no changes in pupil size despite a smaller morphine dosage, which led to inconclusive results.

2. 20% less morphine while playing games

 The decrease in the level of pain naturally led to a decrease of 20% the dosage of morphine. This refers to basal pain but also the general mood, with a reduction of 44% in incidental pain.

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3. Increase of 14% in parasympathetic tone, the key indicator for physical recovery

Most importantly, the parasympathetic tone (PST) was activated 20h after using video games. The PST is a physiological system that we use to repair the disease, inflammation. This means that the benefits are not only at a pain level but also as an entirely news means of healing the cancer.

Dr. Alonso Puig, M.D. and honorific trustee of the Juegaterpia Foundation, explains “When a child is engrossed in a game they love, this whole process of generating disturbing thoughts, pain, and anxiety stops. Thanks to being fully wrapped up in the game, children activate their parasympathetic system. This second area of the vegetative nervous system has two functions: on the one hand, it favors social interaction; on the other, it helps to keep the internal balance of the organism, the homeostasis, which in turn reduces the wear of other body organs. At the end of the day, it all sums up to a phrase: when you play, chemo flies by”.

Mdoloris, assessing pain and illness progression: from Covid19 patients to cancer

The Mdoloris ANI technology was initially developed to offer a reliable, continuous, and non-invasive assessment of a patient pain and comfort. Displayed in real-time on a screen, it helps avoid under et overdosing by enabling doctors to give the right dosage. This is essential in cancer patients. In their case, administering too much pain analgesia can create further damage in the immune system, therefore making it weaker, and can be fatal. The ground-breaking study on pediatric cancer confirms yet another evaluation index: the body’s ability to recover. Previously, the Mdoloris ANI device was deployed in Brazil and other countries to predict the survival rate in COVID19 patients. Days in advance, doctors can evaluate if a patient is going to die with standard care. The MDoloris technology offers them the possibility to explore other care solutions. In the context of the pandemic, it’s also a solution to the painkiller shortage by helping personalize their analgesics treatment.

The science behind the Mdoloris  ANI index

The Mdoloris technology measures Heart Rate Variability, a well-known phenomenon that controls the regulation of the cardiovascular system via the Autonomous Nervous System. It’s based on obtaining a Parasympathetic tone index, scientifically evaluated on a numerical value between 0 and 100. A high index reflects optimal comfort while a rather low index reveals discomfort, surgical stress that can be caused by the care performance, can lead to post-operative pain, inflammation response etc. This index is calculated from a proprietary ANI sensor provided to monitor pain in a comfort zone between 50 and 70. The ANI technology has been developed after more than 23 years of academic research conducted at Lille CHRU (one of France’s major hospitals and medical research facilities) and hundred publications. MDoloris has also developed specific pain monitoring devices for newborns (NIPE) and animals (PTA).

To access the complete study, please click here.

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You can find Arnab mostly editing about smartphone launches and other smartphone-related news. Searching for the latest and the best news regarding smartphones and presenting it in an article is his sole intention. He also covers press releases, has also given many gadget reviews. If you have any leads and tips regarding any topics feel free to drop a mail: [email protected]

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