Watching a favorite cartoon may lower a child’s anxiety just before receiving anesthesia and undergoing surgery, according to a new study published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
“Cartoon distraction” is an “inexpensive, easy to administer and comprehensive” way to reduce anxiety in young children before surgery, says study leader Dr. Joengwoo Lee, of Chonbuk National University Hospital in South Korea, and colleagues.
The researchers note that anxiety before surgery can be a major problem, triggering emotional trauma for both children and their parents.
In some cases, say the authors, anxiety before surgery can lead to lasting behavioral problems, such as separation anxiety, aggressiveness and nightmares.
The new research involved 130 children in South Korea, ages 3 to 7, about to have routine surgical procedures, such as a tonsillectomy. In a pre-surgery waiting room, one group of children watched a cartoon of their choice while another group was allowed to play with a favorite toy. A third group received no special treatment.
In the waiting room, anxiety scores were lowest among the children who played with a favorite toy.
But after being moved to the operating room, anxiety scores were lowest for those who watched a favorite cartoon. (“Power Rangers” was the most popular choice.)
In the operating room, 43 percent of children who watched a cartoon had little to no anxiety, compared with 23 percent of those who brought a toy and 7 percent of those who received no special treatment, the researchers found.
The findings confirm what many parents already know about the power of cartoons to distract children, according to an accompanying editorial by Drs. Franklyn Cladis an. Peter Davis of the University of Pittsburgh.
They believe more research is needed to determine whether lowering children’s anxiety before surgery reduces the risk of behavioral problems after the operation.
Source: Anesthesia & Analgesia.