Kids Take iPad into Surgery


CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Surgery can be a scary thing no matter how old you are, but for children it can be really daunting. Doctors know one of the scariest parts for children is being wheeled away from their parents as they head into the operating room. It usually requires a sedating drug, but Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago has found an even more effective way to calm them: video games.

Samuel C. Seiden, MD, pediatric anesthesiologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago told eight-year-old Giovanny Guillen, “Now, when you’re getting sleepy, I have an iPad that you can play with, okay?”

And that’s all Giovanny needed to hear to turn his anxiety into background noise.

His brother, Mario Guillen, said, “If he’s on his iPad or tablet or something like that, he’ll be gone for hours.”

Doctor Seiden said, “I think the great thing about tablets is that they’re so intuitive that even infants who’ve never seen a tablet before can pick up something and find a game that’s distracting and interactive and use it from the very beginning.”

Doctor Seiden says one of the scariest parts of surgery for children is being wheeled away from their parents and the start of anesthesia.

Before the iPad children would first get a sedation drug to keep them calm, maybe even a clown doctor to distract them. But in a study of patients ages one to 11… Doctor Seiden found on a scale of 100, the tablet reduced anxiety by nine points compared to a drug.

“What we saw using this technique was certainly the kids were calmer going to sleep and it seems that they also woke up better as well,” Seiden explained.

Perhaps it’s further proof that video games are like drugs, but in this case is that really such a bad thing?

Since children aren’t getting the additional sedating drug, doctor Seiden says their recovery time is also a lot faster because they’re not as groggy when they awake. He believes further research will show that less sedation may ease some of the post-operative side effects, such as sleep disorders, night terrors and aggressiveness that some patients exhibit.

Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor and Videographer.


REPORT #2351

BACKGROUND: Children who are hospitalized or who go under anesthesia for surgery often suffer anxiety from a number of sources. Stranger anxiety and fear of separation from parents are common in infants and toddlers. Children may have frightening imaginations about what happens during surgery and some may be afraid that they will not wake after the procedure. Even older children may still experience fear of the surgery itself and the potential pain afterwards. Horror stories may be shared among creative adolescents, adding even more to their anxiety. An anesthesiologist may find it difficult to pinpoint children with anxiety because they may be shy and not ask questions. Doctors find it useful to children and all patients to explain the surgery and the safety of anesthesia even if the patient does not ask. Premedication is commonly used to reduce anxiety before surgery, and make separation from parents and the beginning of anesthesia easier. In certain cases, a parent may be invited to stay with the child until he or she falls asleep under the anesthesia to help ease anxiety.

THE STUDY: Although using anti-anxiety drugs to ease the transition from parents to the operating room for children, most anesthesiologists would prefer to give less medication to their patients in order to prevent unnecessary side effects, such as sleep disorders, night terrors, and aggressiveness. Samuel C. Seiden, MD, an anesthesiologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital led a study on a different technique to calm children’s anxiety. In February 2013, pediatric patients were given iPad Minis to play games with during pre-surgery activities. The children were distracted from anxiety-provoking OR activities. He collected data from children ages one to 11 who were having surgery for the first time. The study found that not only was the tablet as or more effective than the sedative, but the children go home significantly sooner. This was the first study of effects of an interactive tablet on patients as a distraction technique. Authors of the study say that the use of playing games on iPads can be used as a therapeutic alternative to sedating medications.

TIPS TO GET READY FOR SURGERY: The American Society of Anesthesiologists suggest talking to your child before he or she undergoes surgery to help relieve the child’s anxiety. Here’s how:

  • Be honest: Tell your child about the surgery. Fear of the unknown can be worse for children than reality. Tell them the basics and leave out any scary details.
  • Seek guidance: Hospitals may give children tours and can help explain how things work.
  • Talk about the anesthesia: Assure that your child will wake up and be fine after the procedure and explain how it will be administered. Tell your child that the doctors will prevent or take care of the pain.


* For More Information, Contact:

 Julie Pesch


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