Tablet-Based Intervention for Reducing Children's Preoperative Anxiety: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

Objectives:

To examine the feasibility, acceptability, and effects of a novel tablet-based application, Story-Telling Medicine (STM), in reducing children's preoperative anxiety.

Methods:

Children (N = 100) aged 7 to 13 years who were undergoing outpatient surgery were recruited from a local children's hospital. This study comprised 3 waves: Waves 1 (n = 30) and 2 (n = 30) examined feasibility, and Wave 3 (n = 40) examined the acceptability of STM and compared its effect on preoperative anxiety to Usual Care (UC). In Wave 3, children were randomly allocated to receive STM+UC or UC. A change in preoperative anxiety was measured using the Children's Perioperative Multidimensional Anxiety Scale (CPMAS) 7 to 14 days before surgery (T1), on the day of surgery (T2), and 1 month postoperatively (T3).

Results:

Wave 1 demonstrated the feasibility of participant recruitment and data collection procedures but identified challenges with attrition at T2 and T3. Wave 2 piloted a modified protocol that addressed attrition and increased the feasibility of follow-up. In Wave 3, children in the STM+UC demonstrated greater reductions in CPMAS compared with the UC group (ΔM = 119.90, SE = 46.36, t(27) = 2.59, p = .015; 95% confidence interval = 24.78–215.02).

Conclusion:

This pilot study provides preliminary evidence that STM is a feasible and acceptable intervention for reducing children's preoperative anxiety in a busy pediatric operative setting and supports the investigation of a full-scale randomized controlled trial.

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