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Thursday 27th October 2016

Nature scenes reduce pain

19th October 2010

Patients undergoing painful operations can benefit from natural scenery, even if it is in a photograph, according to a recent US study.


The study showed that being in nature, as well as scenes from beautiful outdoor places, helps people forget their pain in much the same way as an anaesthetic.

Lead researcher Noah Lechtzin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said his team had showed that physicians could use distraction techniques to manage patients' pain.

However, the researchers also found that patients of doctors unskilled at minimising pain do not benefit from the technique.

Bone marrow aspiration is a highly painful surgical procedure in which thick needles are inserted into the base of the spine for several minutes at a time.

The much-used procedure may be done several times as part of standard anaemia and leukaemia diagnosis.

Doctors also use bone marrow aspirations in patients undergoing bone marrow transplant therapy.

Patients who undergo the therapy often rank it as being one of the most painful things they have ever experienced.

For the study, the researchers focused on bone marrow aspirations.

Lechtzin said that the researchers painted people's bed curtains with scenes from nature, as well as playing recordings of birds and other outdoor sounds.

He said that, in the search for ways to improve people's experience of the procedure, he and his researchers asked patients to quantify the amount of pain they felt when exposed to images and sounds from an urban scene, as compared to media from a natural scene.

The control group rated its pain at 5.7 out of 10, on average, as did the patients who were exposed to sights and sounds from the city during their operation.

The patients exposed to visual and auditory input rated their pain at 3.9, on average.

Lechtzin said that the mural he and his researchers used hung on a hospital curtain, where it could be wheeled on a stand from bed-to-bed.

Gregory Diette, a pulmonologist and critical care expert at Johns Hopkins, showed that the same mural could even produce a fivefold pain reduction for bronchoscopy.

Diette said that such alternatives were both necessary and important for health care workers and patients.


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