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September 27th, 2021 Baptist Health South Florida

Miami Cancer Institute First in Nation to Offer Virtual Reality Platform for Children Who Require Brain MRI Studies

VR game lowers anxiety, reduces need for anesthesia and results in higher-quality imaging

MIAMI, FL ― September 27, 2021 ― Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, is the first in the nation to offer a virtual reality game that prepares kids for brain MRI studies, easing anxiety and improving care. The Reimagine Well MRI Stillness Game helps train children to stay still and better cope with the often stress-provoking noises and claustrophobic feeling some get during an MRI. The result is a reduction in the number of children who must be anesthetized for the study; a better, clearer image that leads to the highest-quality care; a shorter study time; and a happier patient.

“If a child moves during the MRI, it can create a fuzzy image and make it more difficult to interpret,” said Matthew Hall, M.D., lead pediatric radiation oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute. “To plan and deliver the sharp-shooting radiation treatment our patients receive, we need clear images. We’re very excited that this technology will make this possible and make our patients more comfortable.”

Brain tumor patients typically require a number of MRI studies throughout their treatment and for several years during follow up. Up to 50 percent of pediatric patients at the Institute require anesthesia due to anxiety or discomfort.

Children use the simulation program during a pre-study visit. A specially trained child life specialist helps them don the virtual reality headset and get in position on the table as if they are having the MRI. The patient is first led through a virtual tour of the MRI suite and then the game begins. As children remain still and zero their eyes on a target, they see what begins as a black and white image, turn into full and vibrant color. During three successive levels that become more challenging as they progress, children experience a rainforest, a hot air balloon festival and a coral reef environment.

“Kids receive immediate feedback. In addition to color changes, as they demonstrate that they can lay still, the loud noises of the MRI machine decrease and the more natural sounds for the image they are viewing emerge,” said Dr. Hall. “With biofeedback, they learn to drown out the noise.” Children also see their stillness score increase as they improve. The entire game takes about 20 minutes.

While there are a few cancer treatment facilities in the country using similar technology for children undergoing radiation therapy, Miami Cancer Institute, with its specialized pediatric team that works closely with young patients, doesn’t see a need for virtual reality in that area. When it comes to MRIs, however, even many adults have difficulty remaining motionless. The Institute may eventually offer this program to adults.

The Institute is also collecting data to measure the effectiveness of the simulation. It will analyze the information to see if there is a correlation between lower game scores and the need for anesthesia or a longer amount of time in the MRI machine. “We’re hoping it will become a predictive measure to help guide us so that we can better forecast which children might need more support in getting through an MRI study,” Dr. Hall said.

About Miami Cancer Institute

Miami Cancer Institute brings to South Florida access to personalized clinical treatments and comprehensive support services delivered with unparalleled compassion. No other cancer program in the region has the combination of cancer-fighting expertise and advanced technology—including the first proton therapy center in South Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean, and one of the only radiation oncology programs in the world with each of the newest radiation therapies in one place—to diagnose and deliver precise cancer treatments that achieve the best outcomes and improve the lives of cancer patients. The Institute offers an impressive roster of established community oncologists and renowned experts, clinical researchers and genomic scientists recruited from the nation’s top cancer centers. Selected as Florida’s only member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer (MSK) Alliance, Miami Cancer Institute is part of a meaningful clinical collaboration that affords patients in South Florida access to innovative treatments and ensures that the standards of care developed by their multidisciplinary disease management teams match those at MSK.

Miami Cancer Institute is part of Baptist Health South Florida, the largest healthcare organization in the region, with 11 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Baptist Health has internationally renowned centers of excellence in cancer, cardiovascular care, orthopedics and sports medicine, and neurosciences. In addition, it includes Baptist Health Medical Group; Baptist Health Quality Network; and Baptist Health Care On Demand, a virtual health platform. A not-for-profit organization supported by philanthropy and committed to its faith-based charitable mission of medical excellence, Baptist Health has been recognized by Fortune as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America and by Ethisphere as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. For more information, visit BaptistHealth.net/Newsroom and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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