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iPads as effective as sedatives before pediatric surgery, study shows

Playing with iPads before surgery could replace sedatives for children. Researchers in France who measured the effect of iPads on child and parent anxiety prior to administering anesthesia to the children found them to be equally calming to conventional sedatives, according to Quartz.

Researchers in Pediatric and Obstetric Anesthesia at Lyon University’s Hospices Civils de Lyon and Aniphy Laboratory tested the effect of mobile interactive tools to reduce child anxiety. The study compared playing age-appropriate games on an iPad to a dose of midazolam, a sedative used to help people feel relaxed before anesthesia administered prior to surgery.

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In the study 55 patients were given midazolam and 60 patients were given tablets on which to play games 20 minutes before anesthesia. The patients were children aged 4 to 10 and were randomly assigned to one of the two groups. Two psychologists not associated with the study assessed the anxiety levels of both the children and their parents. Stress levels were measured when they arrived at the hospital, when they were separated, and when anesthesia was induced.

The clinical results of the testing showed that playing on the iPads had the same calming, or “blunting,” effect as the sedative. In addition, both parents and the nurses who administered anesthesia found it was easier for the iPad group. The parents’ stress levels were also the same for both groups on entering the hospital and separating from their children.

Dr. Dominique Chassard, the lead researcher from the Hospices Civils de Lyon, summarized the results: “Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad. However, the quality of induction of anesthesia, as well as parental satisfaction, were judged better in the iPad group. Use of iPads or other tablet devices is a non-pharmacologic tool which can reduce perioperative stress without any sedative effect in paediatric ambulatory surgery.”