Kids take iPad into surgery

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Giovanny Guillen, 8, played games on an iPad as he prepared to have a tonsillectomy. (WLS)

Surgery can be a scary thing no matter how old you are, but for children it can be really daunting.

Doctors know one of the scariest parts for children is being wheeled away from their parents as they head into the operating room. It usually requires a sedating drug, but Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago has found an even more effective way to calm them: video games. We look at if the iPad really can replace anti-anxiety drugs when it comes to prepping children for surgery.

"Now, when you're getting sleepy, I have an iPad that you can play with, okay?" "Wow." "And you can pick out a game," a doctor told Giovanny Guillen - an 8-year-old prepring to have a tonsillectomy. That was all he needed to hear to turn his anxiety into background noise.

"If he's on his iPad or tablet or something like that, he'll be gone for hours," said Mario Guillen, Giovanny's brother.

"I think the great thing about tablets is that they're so intuitive that even infants who've never seen a tablet before can pick up something and find a game that's distracting and interactive and use it from the very beginning," said

Dr. Samuel C. Seiden, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Seiden said one of the scariest parts of surgery for children is being wheeled away from their parents and the start of anesthesia.

Before the iPad, children would first get a sedation drug to keep them calm, maybe even a clown doctor to distract them. But in a study of patients ages one to 11, doctor Seiden found on a scale of 100, the tablet reduced anxiety by nine points compared to a drug.

"What we saw using this technique was certainly the kids were calmer going to sleep and it seems that they also woke up better as well," Seiden said.

Perhaps it's further proof that video games are like drugs, but in this case, is that really such a bad thing?

Since children aren't getting the additional sedating drug, Seiden said their recovery time is also a lot faster because they're not as groggy when they awake. He believes further research will show that less sedation may ease some of the post-operative side effects, such as sleep disorders, night terrors and aggressiveness that some patients exhibit.

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