Playing An iPad Game Is Just As Soothing As Sedatives

Staring at a screen sometimes has its advantages

child with ipad
Kids are mesmerized by tablets — enough that it's a valid replacement for a sedative.Flickr user Brad Flickinger

It's a common strategy for exhausted parents: if the kid's being fussy, put him/her in front of a screen. Turns out, it works so well that it's better than a sedative for children in the operating room, too.

Assessing four to 10-year-olds before they went into surgery, researchers gave one group the sedative midazolam to calm pre-anesthesia anxiety. For the other, they set the nervous kids up with an age-appropriate game app on an iPad. Two independent psychologists then monitored their anxiety at four points: arrival at the hospital, separation from parents, during induction and in the post anaesthesia care unit. They also monitored how much parents were freaking out, and how pleased the nurses were with the quality of sedation and anaesthesia.

Dr. Dominique Chassard and his team presented their research at the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists, which is being held in Hong Kong.

Everyone involved — children, parents, and nurses — preferred the tablet distraction method over the midazolam. Having a non-pharmacologic alternative to quell nerves made the operation ordeal easier to swallow.