Letting children watch a favorite cartoon is an effective and safe way to reduce anxiety before anesthesia and surgery, according to a new study in Anesthesia & Analgesia (November 2012, Vol. 115:5, pp. 1162-1167)
"Cartoon distraction" can reduce anxiety in children in a safe and effective manner before they undergo anesthesia and surgery, according to researchers at Chonbuk National University Hospital.
In a study that evaluated the effect of watching cartoons to reduce anxiety in 130 children between the ages of 3 and 7, they determined that it is also inexpensive and easy to administer.
The children, most of whom were in the hospital for routine surgeries such as a tonsillectomy, were divided into three groups. The first group was given a choice of cartoons to watch on a tablet or laptop computer prior to undergoing anesthesia. The second group was given time to play with a favorite toy that they brought with them. The last group did not have either opportunity and simply moved forward with treatment.
Anxiety was measured by interviewing the children's parents and through observation of each child's behavior. Interestingly, while anxiety was lowest for the toy group prior to entering the operating room, it was the lowest for the cartoon group once they had entered it.
A small number of them were anxious, per parent ratings and researchers' behavioral measures, while in the operating room, but almost every participant in the other groups expressed anxiety. The researchers noted that anxiety was low or nonexistent in 43% of the cartoon group, while only 23% of the other groups had similar levels of anxiety.