Sensor-based early detection of age-related diseases from home


Virtual Reality and Noise in Critical Care

Over the years it has been well established that the intensive care unit can be a highly stressful environment, both for patients and staff alike. In this research our team aimed to understand, on the one hand, the role sound levels play in this environment, and on the other hand, how virtual reality can potentially be used as a tool to provide an alternative environment. 

Virtual Reality in the Intensive Care Unit

Current Project Members:
Aileen Naef (PhD Student)
Project Start: 16.09.2019

In 2019 (pre-covid figures), there were almost 88,000 admissions to intensive care units in Switzerland. And while medical progress is enabling more patients to survive, this does not mean that there are no challenges. Of these patients, the literature estimates that 50-75% will have cognitive impairment at discharge, which can lead to a reduced quality of life. Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus on how to prevent or reduce cognitive impairment while patients are in hospital, except to help them improve as quickly as possible so that they can leave the ICU.  

However, while it is almost certain that multiple factors contribute to the development of these cognitive impairments, the stressful environment of intensive care is certainly one of them. Unfortunately, we also know that it is not always possible to change the physical structure of the hospital. Butwhat if we could visually and acoustically block the physical environment? And not only block it, but also put the patients in a calmer environment?

This question is what our research using virtual reality in the intensive care unit aims to investigate. We are interested in better understanding what type of content to show, what sensory modalities to use, and most importantly, the feasibility of using such technology in critically ill patients and what the outcomes are.

Related Publications:

  • Naef, A. C. et al. Virtual reality stimulation to reduce the incidence of delirium in critically ill patients: study protocol for a randomized clinical trial. Trials 22, 1 (2021)
  • Naef, A. C. et al. Investigating the role of auditory and visual sensory inputs for inducing relaxation during virtual reality stimulation. Scientific reports 12, 1 (2022)
  • Naef, A. C. et al. Visual and auditory stimulation for patients in the intensive care unit: A mixed-method study. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing (2022)

Sound Levels in the Intensive Care Unit

Current Project Members:
Aileen Naef (PhD Student) & Stephan Gerber (Post-doc)
Project Start: 01.01.2021

Sound levels in the intensive care unit are known to consistently surpass the recommendations set forth by the World Health Organization. This is problematic both for patients and healthcare professionals who experience negative health consequences associated with these elevated sound pressure levels. Yet despite the known negative consequences of prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels, there has been little progress in addressing this problem.

To address this problem, our team has been working to identify not only what sound sources produce the most noise within the intensive care unit, but how these sounds are actually perceived by the healthcare professionals working in this environment. Only once this has been understood can reasonable interventions be introduced to make the intensive care unit a healthier environment for patients and staff.


Related Publications:

  • Naef, A. C. et al. Methods for Measuring and Identifying Sounds in the Intensive Care Unit. Frontiers in medicine 9 (2022)
  • Erne, K. et al. Influence of noise manipulation on retention in a simulated ICU ward round: an experimental pilot study. Intensive care medicine experimental 10, 1 (2022

Openly Available Datasets: