BERT: Helping Kids Through Surgery


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It may not surprise you that about 60 percent of patients experience anxiety before surgery. It’s often treated with medication, which can be troublesome when the patient is a child.  Now, there is a more entertaining approach to keeping kids calm before a procedure.

For a six-year-old, a hospital can be a very scary place.  This is Carter’s first time in one. That’s why his doctors came up with a way to make the experience a little easier for him, and other young patients.

It’s called BERT; short for Bedside Entertainment and Relaxation Theatre. A projection unit mounted on a stretcher engages patients with movies and video games right before surgery.

“Carter is all about video games. When we heard that we thought it would be really up his alley,” Carter’s Mom, Dana Seydel told Ivanhoe.

It is the brainchild of anesthesiologist Sam Rodriguez, Dr. Tom Caruso and a team of engineers.

Sam Rodriguez, MD, an anesthesiologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital explained, “We have children who are very anxious, very stressed about having surgery.” (Read Full Interview)

After various attempts, Dr. Rodriguez found the solution with BERT and its three-foot wide screen.

Rodriguez continued, “They couldn’t even see the operating room equipment as they were walking in because the screen was large enough to actually be blocking it.”

Before surgery, BERT plays movies. But when it’s time for anesthesia, it transforms into an interactive video game.  Kids pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon cooking their favorite food.

“We also use it to get them to be more cooperative and to take deep breaths,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Carter is just one of many satisfied patients. As a result, ten BERT units are now being used in the perioperative department. Plans are also underway to share the software with hospitals around the country.

BERT may soon be going international! A hospital in Barcelona has currently shown interest in the projection unit. In addition, new video games are also underway. One will allow kids to blow virtual bubbles in the operating room.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Videographer, Alan Filippi; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4284

BACKGROUND: A scheduled surgery for a child can lead to high level of anxiety.  A study from Yale University shows that a child’s anxiety prior to surgery is predictive of whether a child will experience trauma and maladaptive behavioral changes. This could lead to more anxiety, nighttime crying, and bedwetting.

(Source:  )

TREATMENT:  Parents and doctors should provide children with any information they may be curious about. It is important to be honest with children to make them feel more secure. Some hospitals have allowed parents to stay with their child until they are given the anesthetic. It is up to the parents, child, and doctor, as studies have shown that there are no positive or negative results of parents staying with their children. Sometimes acupuncture and listening to music may help children with anxiety. Furthermore, it is important for parents to lessen their anxiety as this can also make kids anxious.


NEW TREATMENT: Anesthesiologists at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital came up with a new solution to help ease children’s anxiety before surgery. B.E.R.T stands for Bedside Entertainment Theater. Patients now can have various video options to watch. These movies can then be projected on to a surgical light above the patient. The screen that the videos are projected on travels with the patient through pre-op and can feel immersive to the child. When it is time for anesthesia, it transforms into an interactive video game, where kids pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon cooking their favorite food. This gets them to take deep breaths for preparation for inhalation induction of anesthesia; doctors will tell the children they are “going to sleep with a mask.” This procedure can replace anxiety meds, which can lead to dangerous risks in a child’s developing brain.


Dr. Sam Rodriguez)


Kate DeTrempe


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at


Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Samuel Rodriguez, MD

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