Study finds iPads and games as effective as sedatives to calm pre-op anxiety in children

By Heather Mack
01:31 pm

The hypnotic trance kids enter when they’re staring at an iPad isn’t just for on-demand quiet time in restaurants or cars. Turns out, the smart tablets are so effective at zoning out kids, they work just as well as sedatives to quell anxiety before surgery.

A group of French doctors, led by Dr. Dominique Chassard of Hopital Mere Enfant, Hospices Civils de Lyon, presented a poster at the World Congress of Anesthesiologists in Hong Kong that compared the use midazolam, a conventional sedative, to that of iPads loaded with age-appropriate game apps on 112 children aged 4 to 10 years old during and after ambulatory surgery.

The children were randomly divided into two groups, with each group receiving either the midazolam or iPad 20 minutes before anesthesia. Child anxiety was measured (using m-YPAS scoring, a standardized assessment tool), by two independent psychologists at four time points: arrival at the hospital, separation from parents, during anesthesia induction and post anesthesia care unit. A half an hour after the child received their last dose of anesthesia, they were transferred to the ambulatory surgery ward. Parents were also assessed for anxiety during the arrival, separation and in the post-surgery unit.

The researchers found anxiety levels to be similar in both groups. The team has not yet published a full paper yet, but the poster referenced a 2006 study showing similar outcomes when using mobile devices as a means of distraction before pediatric operations.

"Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anaesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad,” Chassard concluded in the poster.

What’s more, the parents prefer to trade drugs for the mobile interactive tool to the sedative, and nurses found the anesthesia induction quality was higher with the iPad group.

“… the quality of induction of anesthesia, as well as parental satisfaction, were judged better in the iPad group,” wrote Chassard. “Use of iPads or other tablet devices is a non-pharmacologic tool which can reduce perioperative stress without any sedative effect in pediatric ambulatory surgery."


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