New Online Program Will Make Surgery Less Scary for Kids

Hundreds of children across Saskatchewan have surgery each year, which can be a stressful event for both the child and parents. But now two Saskatchewan researchers are working together to combat this stress with an innovative new program to help prepare children for surgery.

Dr. Kristi Wright, Dr. Mateen Raazi, Dr. Don Sharpe and Dr. Stuart Wilson are developing and testing an internet-delivered preoperative preparation program (I-PPP), with the goal to integrate it into Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital; home to the very first dedicated pediatric surgery suites in Saskatchewan, specially designed to meet the unique needs of children.

Dr. Kristi Wright

Dr. Raazi and Dr. Wright say using the I-PPP can help prevent and reduce anxiety associated with a child’s upcoming surgery; improving the experience for young patients and their families and possibly having a positive effect on surgical outcomes.

“We are just now discovering that the immune system can be depressed by concurrent illnesses, by stress, and that can have an outcome on how well children will recover,” says Dr. Mateen Raazi, Provincial Department Head, Anesthesiology. “Having a nice, quiet, calm environment to reduce anxiety before surgery can have a positive outcome on recovery.”

Dr. Mateen Raavi

Research has shown that around 60% of children experience anxiety over upcoming surgery. Up to 25% of children will have reactions so serious that they need to be physically restrained in order to safely administer anesthetic.

Extreme stress can also lead to negative post-surgery behaviour including nightmares, separation anxiety, temper tantrums and negative responses to future medical care.

I-PPP is an interactive and child-friendly program that is made up of five components. Narrated by Ippy the Penguin, the program has both child and parent versions. Parents are asked to complete the parent version first and are then able to guide their child through the child version. I-PPP aims to show children what their day will look like when going in for surgery, it will include a virtual tour of the hospital, and educate families about anesthesia and the induction process.

The study is a joint effort between the University of Regina’s Department of Psychology and the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management. It was funded by Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, and the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine.

“Ultimately, parents want to be involved as much as they can,” explains Dr. Kristi Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology at the University of Regina. “We want to make sure they are prepared enough, and that they can support their children.”

While preoperative preparation programs are not a new concept, having one that is delivered through the internet addresses many drawbacks associated with traditionally delivered programs including time constraints and accessibility for out of town patients. With Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital treating children across our province, serving patients in remote and rural areas is a key initiative for the new provincial hospital.

“Our Foundation is so proud of the incredible work being done by these researchers,” says Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. “Their incredible drive to bring the best care to Saskatchewan kids and families is truly making our province a better place. With Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital opening this fall we are excited about novel patient care programs like this that will soon be an important part of this world-class facility.”

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