Virtual and Augmented Reality Applications in Medicine: Analysis of the Scientific Literature


Background: Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have recently become popular research themes. However, there are no published bibliometric reports that have analyzed the corresponding scientific literature in relation to the application of these technologies in medicine.

Objective: We used a bibliometric approach to identify and analyze the scientific literature on VR and AR research in medicine, revealing the popular research topics, key authors, scientific institutions, countries, and journals. We further aimed to capture and describe the themes and medical conditions most commonly investigated by VR and AR research.

Methods: The Web of Science electronic database was searched to identify relevant papers on VR research in medicine. Basic publication and citation data were acquired using the “Analyze” and “Create Citation Report” functions of the database. Complete bibliographic data were exported to VOSviewer and Bibliometrix, dedicated bibliometric software packages, for further analyses. Visualization maps were generated to illustrate the recurring keywords and words mentioned in the titles and abstracts.

Results: The analysis was based on data from 8399 papers. Major research themes were diagnostic and surgical procedures, as well as rehabilitation. Commonly studied medical conditions were pain, stroke, anxiety, depression, fear, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Overall, contributions to the literature were globally distributed with heaviest contributions from the United States and United Kingdom. Studies from more clinically related research areas such as surgery, psychology, neurosciences, and rehabilitation had higher average numbers of citations than studies from computer sciences and engineering.

Conclusions: The conducted bibliometric analysis unequivocally reveals the versatile emerging applications of VR and AR in medicine. With the further maturation of the technology and improved accessibility in countries where VR and AR research is strong, we expect it to have a marked impact on clinical practice and in the life of patients.

Read full text: Yeung AWK, Tosevska A, Klager E, Eibensteiner F, Laxar D, Stoyanov J, Glisic M, Zeiner S, Kulnik ST, Crutzen R, Kimberger O, Kletecka-Pulker M, Atanasov AG, Willschke H. Virtual and Augmented Reality Applications in Medicine: Analysis of the Scientific Literature. J Med Internet Res. 2021 Feb 10;23(2):e25499. doi: 10.2196/25499. PMID: 33565986; PMCID: PMC7904394.