North Texas

Hospital Entertainment System Helps Ease Kids' Anxiety Before Surgery

BERT plays movies and video games to comfort patients in stressful situations

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.

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.

It is the brainchild of anesthesiologist Dr. Sam Rodriguez, Dr. Tom Caruso and a team of engineers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

"We have children who are very anxious, very stressed about having surgery," Rodriguez said.

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

"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," Rodriguez said.

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," Rodriguez said.

Ten BERT units are now being used in the perioperative department at the children's hospital, and plans are underway to share the software with hospitals around the country.

BERT may also 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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