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Virtual reality used during cystic fibrosis treatment

Virtual reality headsets like this one allow the viewer to immerse themselves in another setting

Virtual reality headsets are being used to help people going through treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Patients are immersed in safari experiences and can explore their surroundings as a distraction therapy.

Beth Clarke from Cardiff, who trialled it, said: "I was really pleasantly surprised. Any distraction from being in hospital is welcome."

The first trial of its kind in the UK is being carried out at Llandough Hospital in Vale of Glamorgan.

Ms Clarke said: "It really does take you to somewhere else for a few minutes. A hospital stay is never going to be enjoyable, the staff here are brilliant, but who's going to enjoy being in hospital? So it's great to just get out and get taken to another place for just a short period of time."

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited, life-long and life-threatening genetic disorder where the lungs and digestive system can become clogged with thick, sticky mucus.

It affects about 400 people in Wales and the trial at the Wales Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre aims to reduce pain levels and anxiety among sufferers.

Treatment for cystic fibrosis is wide-ranging and includes medication, exercises, and special techniques to clear the airways - which can be tiring and time consuming.

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Patients can do a virtual bike ride in more scenic surroundings than the hospital room, as they exercise for treatment.

The trial in Llandough has a virtual cycling experience to motivate patients to exercise in the hospital room as part of their treatment.

Anthony Phillips from Port Talbot, has been visiting Llandough for treatment every three months for five years.

He said: "I was a bit sceptical of trying it, but when I did try it, it was good. It's just a distraction that will take your mind elsewhere and when you're cycling, you're not going to get out of breath so much because your mind is elsewhere and you're concentrating on something else."

Patients cannot mix because of the fear of cross infection, but the centre is working with Swansea University to create games they can play against each other.

Consultant physician Dr Jamie Duckers said: "Due to the nature of cystic fibrosis, it affects many organs of the body and our patients often have a really time consuming, complex daily regime of treatment, medication and physiotherapy.

"That in combination with the fact that they're usually quite a younger population and they're very good on IT and tech involvement, so we thought it was a really good place to trial working the virtual reality with them."

Matthew Wordley, chief operating officer at the company behind the project, Orchard, said there were plans to expand it.

"We're looking at wearable technology to immediately be able to monitor how the patient is feeling and then to adjust the actual experience to make sure that we're getting maximum benefit for the patient," he added.

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