The following is a summary of “Virtual and augmented reality in critical care medicine: the patient’s, clinician’s, and researcher’s perspective” published in the October 2022 issue of Critical Care by Bruno et al.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are 2 promising new technologies that are being used increasingly in critical care medicine. AR adds virtual elements on top of a real-world scene, while VR completely immerses the user in a virtual 3-dimensional space. VR and AR have a lot of potential to make critical care medicine better for patients, their families, and the people working in the field. VR could help the patient feel less anxious, stressed, scared, or in pain. It may help patients move around and get better, and it can help everyone involved in the patient’s care talk to each other better.

AR can be a good way to help intensive care medicine providers keep learning, and it can be used with traditional learning methods to help people learn key practical skills like how to place a central vein line, do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, manage an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation device, or intubate a patient’s windpipe. There are still technical, human, and ethical problems to solve. It is hard to adapt and combine VR/AR technologies into useful clinical applications that can be used regularly in the ICU. During VR/AR sessions, users may feel “cybersickness,” which is an unwanted side effect. This could make VR/AR less useful.

Also, critically ill patients are some of the most vulnerable patients, so if new technologies are to be used in their daily care, special ethical considerations must be made. Due to how the studies were set up, most AR/VR studies in critical care medicine so far only provide a low level of evidence. Here, researchers give a brief overview of what is known about the past, what is happening now, and what are the most important things to consider for future scientific research in this field.