Healthcast: Helping Kids Through Surgery


It may not surprise you that about 60 percent of patients experience anxiety before surgery. It’s often treated with medication, which can be troublesome when the patient is a child. Now, there is a more entertaining approach to keeping kids calm before a procedure.

For a six-year-old, a hospital can be a very scary place. This is Carter’s first time in one. That’s why his doctors came up with a way to make the experience a little easier for him, and other young patients.

It’s called BERT; short for Bedside Entertainment and Relaxation Theatre. A projection unit mounted on a stretcher engages patients with movies and video games right before surgery.

“Carter is all about video games. When we heard that we thought it would be really up his alley,” Carter’s Mom, Dana Seydel said.

It is the brainchild of anesthesiologist Sam Rodriguez, Dr. Tom Caruso and a team of engineers.

Sam Rodriguez, MD, an anesthesiologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital explained, “We have children who are very anxious, very stressed about having surgery.”

After various attempts, Dr. Rodriguez found the solution with BERT and its three-foot wide screen.

D. Rodriguez continued, “They couldn’t even see the operating room equipment as they were walking in because the screen was large enough to actually be blocking it.”

Before surgery, BERT plays movies. But when it’s time for anesthesia, it transforms into an interactive video game. Kids pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon cooking their favorite food.

“We also use it to get them to be more cooperative and to take deep breaths,” Dr. Rodriguez said.

Carter is just one of many satisfied patients. As a result, ten BERT units are now being used in the perioperative department. Plans are also underway to share the software with hospitals around the country.

BERT may soon be going international! A hospital in Barcelona has currently shown interest in the projection unit. In addition, new video games are also underway. One will allow kids to blow virtual bubbles in the operating room.

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