For Immediate Release
At UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School Researchers Find "Game Boy" Is an Effective Approach For Treating Anxiety in Children About to Undergo Elective Surgery
Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) have found that hand-held video games are as effective in treating severe anxiety in children about to undergo elective surgery as the usual approach of administering an anti-anxiety drug.
This conclusion is based on a study by researchers at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School involving children between the ages of four and 12 years old who were about to undergo general anesthesia for surgery at UMDNJ-University Hospital.
The study will be presented by Dr. Anuradha Patel, assistant professor of pediatric anesthesiology and principal investigator, on Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Postgraduate Assembly of the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists. The meeting, which begins at 10 a.m., is being held at the Marriott Hotel in New York City.
"Going into the operating room can be an extremely anxious time for children even though they are with their parents,"said Dr. Patel. "Over the years, we have tried a number of activities from watching television to reading stories to using coloring books to help alleviate their stress, but none of these approaches provided enough distraction to lessen the anxiety."
If the children get so anxious they act out, the only option had been to administer an oral dose of midazolam, said Dr. Henry L. Bennett, associate professor of anesthesiology at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and a member of the study team, "but the problem is that this drug can produce a "drug hangover" which lasts longer that the effect of the anesthesia itself and makes some parents uncomfortable."
The idea of using a Game Boy as a new approach for treating anxiety came from Dr. Patel after she had seen how absorbed her friend"s seven-year-old son is when he"s playing with his Game Boy.
Collecting the needed Game Boys and games became the community service project of Christopher Walsh of Allenwood, N.J., as part of his requirements for an Eagle Scout Award. He collected more than 30 Game Boys and 60 games.
The randomized controlled study, which took place between February and October of this year, involved 78 children. The researchers used the modified Yale Pre-Operative Anxiety Scale, an observational instrument that quantifies children"s anxiety, to determine when to intervene with a pediatric patient.
The children who needed help were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Each child had parents with them up to the point that the child lost consciousness from anesthesia being administered in the operating room.
One group had only their parents with them to help cope with their anxiety; one group was also given an oral dose of midazolam about 30 minutes before anesthesia; and each child in the third group was given a Game Boy about 30 minutes prior to anesthesia.
"The results of this study showed that the most dramatic difference in anxiety was observed in the group that had the Game Boy right up until the anesthesia took effect,"Dr. Bennett said.
The median change in anxiety for the Game Boy group was zero while for the midazolam group the increase was 7.5, in accordance with the anxiety scale. For the group who only had parental presence as a calming factor, the increase was 17.5.
"We would like to introduce the use of Game Boys in the pre-anesthesia waiting areas and allow the children to stay absorbed in the Game Boy right up until they are receiving the anesthesia in the operating room,"he said.
Officials at Nintendo, the manufacturer of Game Boy, have installed game stations in pediatric play rooms at hospitals nationwide, but said they had never heard of providing Game Boys to children to help with preoperative anxiety.
The other members of the study team in addition to Drs. Bennett and Patel were Drs. Melissa Davidson and Thomas Schieble, also faculty members in the Department of Anesthesiology at the medical school.
The UMDNJ - New Jersey Medical School is one of three medical schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. UMDNJ comprises New Jersey"s only medical schools, the state"s only dental school, a nursing school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions and a school of public health on campuses in Newark, Piscataway/New Brunswick, Camden, Stratford and Scotch Plains. It is affiliated with more than 200 health care and educational institutions throughout the state.