Mindfulness-based Virtual Reality Intervention in Hemodialysis Patients: A Pilot Study on End-user Perceptions and Safety

Rosalba Hernandez*, Brett Burrows, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Killivalavan Solai, Drew Fast, Natalia O. Litbarg, Kenneth R. Wilund, Judith T. Moskowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Virtual reality (VR) is an evolving technology that is becoming a common treatment for pain management and psychologic phobias. Although nonimmersive devices (e.g., the Nintendo Wii) have been previously tested with patients on hemodialysis, no studies to date have used fully immersive VR as a tool for intervention delivery. This pilot trial tests the initial safety, acceptability, and utility of VR during maintenance hemodialysis treatment sessions - particularly, whether VR triggers motion sickness that mimics or negatively effects treatment-related symptoms (e.g., nausea). Methods Patients on hemodialysis (n20) were enrolled in a phase 1 single-arm proof-of-concept trial. While undergoing hemodialysis, participants were exposed to our new Joviality VR program. This 25-minute program delivers mindfulness training and guided meditation using the Oculus Rift head-mounted display. Participants experienced the program on two separate occasions. Before and immediately after exposure, participants recorded motion-related symptoms and related discomfort on the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire. Utility measures included the end-user's ability to be fully immersed in the virtual space, interact with virtual objects, find hardware user friendly, and easily navigate the Joviality program with the System Usability Scale. Results Mean age was 55.3 (±13.1) years; 80% male; 60% Black; and mean dialysis vintage was 3.56 (±3.75) years. At the first session, there were significant decreases in treatment and/or motion-related symptoms after VR exposure (22.6 versus 11.2; P0.03); scores >20 indicate problematic immersion. Hemodialysis end-users reported high levels of immersion in the VR environment and rated the software easy to operate, with average System Usability Scale scores of 82.8 out of 100. Conclusions Patients on hemodialysis routinely suffer from fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness, and headaches that often manifest during their dialysis sessions. Our Joviality VR program decreased symptom severity without adverse effects. VR programs may be a safe platform to improve the experience of patients on dialysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • alternative therapies
  • dialysis
  • hemodialysis
  • mindfulness/meditation
  • psychological wellbeing
  • symptom management
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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