Sponge Bob videos played during radiotherapy help pediatric cancer patients remain still, avoid anesthesia

Projecting a video directly inside the radiotherapy machine may decrease the amount of anesthesia used during radiotherapy treatment for pediatric cancer patients, according to research presented the ESTRO (European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology) 36 conference in Vienna from May 5 to May 9.

Radiotherapy treatment requires patients to come in for treatment every day for four to six weeks. Because the children need to remain motionless during the treatment, general anesthesia is regularly administered beforehand.

For the study, researchers monitored six pediatric cancer patients under the age of six years who received treatment with the radiotherapy machine. Researchers then equipped the machine with a video projector and observed a second group of six patients under the age of six years as they underwent treatment.

Before equipping the radiotherapy machine with the video projector, 83 percent of the treatments required anesthesia. After installing the projector, anesthesia was only needed in 33 percent of the radiotherapy treatments.

"Radiotherapy can be very scary for children. It's a huge room full of machines and strange noises, and the worst part is that they're in the room alone during their treatment," said Catia Aguas, a radiation therapist and dosimetrist at the Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc, Brussels, Belgium, who presented the study at the conference. "Since we started using videos, children are a lot less anxious. Now they know that they're going to watch a movie of their choice, they're more relaxed and once the movie starts it's as though they travel to another world. Sponge Bob, Cars and Barbie have been popular movie choices with our patients."

More articles on patient engagement: 
Virtual patients help med students learn to communicate difficult medical news 
Nurses sitting at the bedside linked to higher patient experience scores 
Healthgrades unveils chatbot for patient engagement

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