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iPads can be used as sedatives for kids who are to undergo surgery

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Last Updated: Jan 18, 2016

It is now emerging that kids who are supposed to undergo surgery can be given tablets to play with before anaesthesia is administered to them.

According to Dr. Samuel C. Seiden, a professor of pediatric anesthesiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, playing with tablets could relax some kids even more than sedatives. He said that it also makes life easier for their parents and the hospital staff.


“Anxiety is a major source of concern for children going to the hospital for anything, but especially for surgery, and it’s also a major source of dissatisfaction for their parents,” said Dr. Samuel the lead author. “That whole process of leaving parents or having someone put a mask over your face can be a very traumatic experience.

“That’s why we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could make this less anxiety-provoking for children.”

Some hospitals have used games, videos and even music as alternatives to sedation to distract kids from their anxiety and the results have been successful.

Dr. Samuel C. Seiden and his team wanted to test iPad mini as a distraction method because it is easy to use and is quite interactive.

In their study, the randomly selected 108 kids aged between 1 and 11, and they were randomly assigned to receive either an Apple iPad mini or oral midazolam (A sedative) 15 minutes before going for the surgery.

The findings were interesting. The kids with iPad started playing immediately. They continued playing up to the time they received the anesthesia. This group of kids showed a 9-point decrease in anxiety when they separated from their parents compared with their counterparts who received oral midazolam – anxiety was measured on a scale of 100.


It was also found that kids ages 2-11 who played with the iPad when anesthesia was first being administered showed a 14-point decrease in anxiety compared to the kids who got a sedative. And their recovery room stay was also shorter.

Those who had played with the tablet took about 87 minutes in the recovery room while their counterparts who took the sedative took up to 111 minutes in the recovery room.

81 percent of the parents in the iPad group were very satisfied with the separation, while only 59 percent of those in the sedative category were satisfied with the separation.

This finding clearly shows that the iPad has positive effect on both the kids and their parents.
“It used to be very common to give kids under 8 a sedating medication, but now our default practice is, if the kid is over 4, we expect we can distract with a tablet,” said Seiden.

Another advantage of using an iPad is that it has no side effects unlike midazolam syrup which may result in airway obstruction, shallow breathing and nausea.

And even though midazolam syrup has low rate of allergic reactions it may sometimes fail and end up causing agitation on kids.

The fact that iPads can be used as sedatives was also supported by Alisa McQueen, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics based in Chicago.

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