As many parents of small children can tell you, hand a tablet or smartphone to a cranky kid and let them watch a video or play with an app to calm them down. As it turns out, there may be a medical application for this same solution.
Pediatric surgery typically occasions minor anxiety in both children and their parents. Doctors prescribe sedatives 20 to 30 minutes before anesthesia to alleviate anxiety and help children relax. New research by the Pediatric and Obstetric Anesthesia group at Lyon University’s Hospices Civils de Lyon and Aniphy Laboratory indicates that playing age-appropriate games on tablets compares favorably with sedatives given to children in reducing anxiety prior to anesthesia.
In the French study, researchers randomly assigned 115 children aged 4 to 10 prepping for pediatric surgery to one of two groups. One group was given a conventional sedative, in this case midazolam (MDX). The second group were given iPads with age-appropriate game software. Two psychologists not associated with the research team independently observed the anxiety levels of the children and thepr parents. Anxiety measurements were taken on arrival at the hospital, when the parents and children separated, and when anesthesia was induced (children only). Researchers also assessed parental and child anxiety measurements post surgery as well as parental satisfaction with the overall anesthesia process.
The results showed approximately equal anxiety levels with both the sedative and iPad groups. The research will require replicated studies with larger and diverse groups, but it promises a chance to reduce the use of sedatives for children.