Virtual reality stimulation to reduce the incidence of delirium in critically ill patients: study protocol for a randomized clinical trial.

Naef, Aileen C; Jeitziner, Marie-Madlen; Gerber, Stephan M.; Jenni-Moser, Béatrice; Müri, René M.; Jakob, Stephan M.; Nef, Tobias; Hänggi, Matthias (2021). Virtual reality stimulation to reduce the incidence of delirium in critically ill patients: study protocol for a randomized clinical trial. Trials, 22(1), p. 174. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13063-021-05090-2

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Delirium has been long considered as a major contributor to cognitive impairments and increased mortality following a critical illness. Pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic strategies are used against delirium in the intensive care unit (ICU), despite these strategies remaining controversial. Previous studies have shown the feasibility of using virtual reality within the ICU setting, and we propose to use this technology to investigate the effect of immersive virtual reality stimulation on the incidence of delirium in the ICU. Moreover, we propose to use motion sensors to determine if patient movement patterns can lead to early prediction of delirium onset.


This study is conducted as a randomized clinical trial. A total of 920 critically ill patients in the ICU will participate. The control group will receive standard ICU care, whereas the intervention group will, in addition to the standard ICU care, receive relaxing 360-degree immersive virtual reality content played inside a head-mounted display with noise-cancelling headphones, three times a day. The first 100 patients, regardless of their group, will additionally have their movement patterns recorded using wearable and ambient sensors. Follow-up measurements will take place 6 months after discharge from the ICU.


Delirium is widely present within the ICU setting but lacks validated prevention and treatment strategies. By providing patients with virtual reality stimulation presented inside a head-mounted display and noise-cancelling headphones, participants may be isolated from disturbances on an ICU. It is believed that by doing so, the incidence of delirium will be decrease among these patients. Moreover, identifying movement patterns associated with delirium would allow for early detection and intervention, which may further improve long-term negative outcomes associated with delirium during critical care.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NCT04498585 . Registered on August 3, 2020.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic of Intensive Care

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Naef, Aileen; Jeitziner, Marie-Madlen; Gerber, Stephan Moreno; Jenni-Moser, Béatrice Monika; Müri, René Martin; Jakob, Stephan; Nef, Tobias and Hänggi, Matthias


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Isabelle Arni

Date Deposited:

28 Apr 2021 15:42

Last Modified:

28 Jun 2022 10:11

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Additional Information:

Aileen Naef and Marie-Madlen Jeitziner shared first authorship.
Tobias Nef and Matthias Hänggi shared last authorship.

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Critical care Delirium ICU Intensive care Movement patterns Randomized controlled trial Virtual reality




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