Breath-controlled Game for Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Chronically ill pediatric patients, such as kids with cystic fibrosis, are often overwhelmed by frequent and multiple tests and treatments. To cope with such stress, these patients sometimes turn to video games for relief. Dr. Peter Bingham, a pediatric neurologist, wondered if it would be possible to combine these tests and treatments with the fun and stress relief value of video games. With the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he has developed two games for cystic fibrosis patients.

A specific forced expiration, “huffing,” is a valuable therapeutic technique that cystic fibrosis patients can use to clear their airways. The problem is that it is generally not carried out. Not only that, but sometimes these patients do not correctly perform pulmonary function tests, making it difficult to monitor their disease.

Two pilot games were developed by his team to address this problem. The games are on a laptop connected to a spirometer. One game is called “Creep Frontier,” where players wander around to collect treasure, but they have to “huff” to get obstructive and dangerous purple slime out of the way. The other game was a racing game where “huffing” refills the car’s gas tank. Both of the games did not deal with the subject of cystic fibrosis directly to try and make the game feel less clinical. In a pilot study, more patients preferred the games over simple on screen instructions.

The team is continuing to analyze data from the study to see long term effects, but the results look promising.

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