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Cartoons help calm children before surgery

Media information For immediate release
1 December 2009

Cartoons help calm children before surgery

Bob the Builder, Pocahontas and Buzz Lightyear are all helping children at Waikato Hospital to remain calm before surgery.

The cartoon characters are part of a new collection of movies, purchased with eight portable DVD players for children going into theatre at Waikato Hospital.

A new distraction technique that is working wonders according to anaesthetist Chris Jephcott.

"Part of my job is to gain the trust of the patient and reduce their anxiety but with children this is not always possible.

"Each will react differently, but in most cases they are frightened, don't know what is going on and focus on the unfamiliar environment.

"It's stressful for them and becomes stressful for their parents but the DVDs allow them to focus on something different.

"It also allows me to focus on their anaesthetic," Dr Jephcott said.

Each child receives a DVD player on arrival and chooses a movie to watch while taken into theatre, as they drift off to sleep, and when they wake up in recovery.

"The DVD follows them on their journey through theatre and for nine out of 10 children it is making it much easier, for everyone," Dr Jephcott said.

Paediatric anaesthetist Andrew Muncaster has a keen interest in distraction techniques for children and after seeing portable DVD players work he was keen to "pick it up and run with it" at Waikato Hospital.

"Techniques vary in complexity and effectiveness but it is a fascinating field and something that has an increasing body of research to support its use," he said.

Some hospitals overseas have taken distraction to the next level and are providing children with virtual reality headsets.

"These sets effectively take the child to a different world, allowing the doctor to perform some quite invasive procedures with no anaesthetic," Dr Muncaster said.

"We are using a simple technique but having great success."

Dr Jephcott purchased the DVD players and DVDs with prize money from last year's Best of Health Awards.

Dr Jephcott won the Continuous Improvement Award for clinical practice improvement after he introduced ward-based sedation for dressing changes and wound debridements in burns patients at Waikato Hospital.

"I wanted to spend the funds on something that would benefit the hospital or the patients and these DVD players are making a huge difference for children and their parents," he said.


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