Giving iPads to Kids as Effective as Giving Them Sedatives Before Surgery

A photo of a doctor using an iPad.

Image: Shutterstock

Undergoing surgery is stressful for everyone, but it can be particularly nerve racking for young children (aged 4 to 10). Generally, children are given a sedative to help them relax before they undergo anesthesia, but a recent study has shown that giving kids iPads to play with beforehand is just as effective, and might even make the whole process easier.

A recent study shows that both sedatives and iPads reduced anxiety in children and adults alike, but children in particular had better experiences with the anesthesia. The children were more receptive and the anesthesia took effect much quicker.

Interactive media (in this case age-appropriate games) can provide a variety of benefits ranging from educational fun to calming the mind and body. This was the first study of its kind, and the sample size wasn’t huge, so further studies will be needed in order to confirm findings. But the information is still useful, and something that hospitals and parents may be inclined to implement.

Children who already have iPads could use them before receiving anesthesia to help ease their worries. For kids who have difficulty taking pills, this offers a creative solution to sedatives, which themselves can be unpleasant to take. Some parents might also be leery about the idea of “drugging” their kids before giving them anesthesia, making the entire process of surgery that much more difficult for them. Increased anxiety in parents can lead to increased anxiety in their kids as well, so this process is just as much about the parents as it is their children.

And who knows, maybe the iPad system will work better for older patients as well. After all, while adults may be better at hiding it, they are just as prone to experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety before surgery.

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