Two San Diego doctors say they are working to expand access to a high-tech treatment for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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For the past 14 years, the Virtual Reality Medical Center in Mira Mesa has been treating patients with PTSD using virtual reality programs. Though the technology is not new, the approach to increasing access to treatment is.
"We have a portable system that fits into a 'ruggedized' case and for example, we have been using that in Iraq," said Dr. Mark Wiederhold, who is with the Virtual Reality Medical Center.
But for the thousands of returning veterans who do not live near Mira Mesa or a Veterans Affairs hospital, help may soon be on the way.
"We actually have an initial pilot program where we'll be treating 10 patients in remote locations using the virtual reality simulation," said Wiederhold.
Dr. Dennis Wood demonstrated how the simulation works. It uses a special headset and a handheld controller. Wood is a retired Navy captain who is now a clinical psychologist. He has treated more than 50 veterans suffering from PTSD.
Wood said the idea behind the 3D war simulation is to peak a patient's arousal, slowly back off and then repeat that pattern over and over.
"The warriors, we believe, learn to generalize their ability to control arousal to day-to-day events with the family or the military," said Wood.
The Virtual Reality Medical Center claims to have an 80 percent success rate in treating PTSD. Their pilot program is reportedly promising.
Their only hurdles in getting treatment to remote locations is limited Internet access and finding trained caregivers who can monitor a patient's vital signs as they use the virtual reality simulator.
The doctors hope to complete their 10-person study over the next 12 months. Their $400,000 study is being funded by a private foundation.
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