Extended Reality Head-Mounted Displays Are Likely to Pose a Significant Risk in Medical Settings While Current Classification Remains as Non-Critical

Adrian Goldsworthy, Matthew Olsen, Andy Koh, Thibaut Demaneuf, Gobinddeep Singh, Reem Almheiri, Brendan Chapman, Shaima Almazrouei, Rose Ghemrawi, Abiola Senok, Simon McKirdy, Rashed Alghafri, Lotti Tajouri

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Extended reality (XR) devices, including virtual and augmented reality head-mounted displays (HMDs), are increasingly utilised within healthcare to provide clinical interventions and education. Currently, XR devices are utilised to assist in reducing pain and improving psychological outcomes for immunocompromised patients in intensive care units, palliative care environments and surgical theatres. However, there is a paucity of research on the risks of infection from such devices in healthcare settings. Identify existing literature providing insights into the infection control risk XR HMDs pose within healthcare facilities and the efficacy of current infection control and cleaning procedures. Three databases (PubMed, Embase and CINAHL) in addition to Google Scholar were systematically searched. A total of seven studies were identified for this review. Microorganisms, including pathogenic bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa), were found to be present on XR HMDs. Published cleaning and infection control protocols designed to disinfect XR HMDs and protect users were heterogeneous in nature. Current cleaning protocols displayed varying levels of efficacy with microbial load affected by multiple factors, including time in use, number of users and XR HMD design features. In healthcare settings, fitting XR HMDs harbouring microorganisms near biological and mucosal entry points presents an infection control risk. An urgent revision of the Spaulding classification is required to ensure flexibility that allows for these devices to be reclassified from ‘Non-critical’ to ‘Semi-Critical’ depending on the healthcare setting and patient population (surgery, immunocompromised, burns, etc.). This review identified evidence supporting the presence of microorganisms on XR HMDs. Due to the potential for HMDs to contact mucosal entry points, devices must be re-considered within the Spaulding classification as ‘Semi-critical’. The existence of microbial contaminated XR HMDs in high-risk medical settings such as operating wards, intensive care units, emergency departments, labour and delivery wards and clinical areas with immunosuppressed patients requires urgent attention. Public health authorities have a duty of care to develop revised guidelines or new recommendations to ensure efficient sanitation of such devices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number815
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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