anesthesia in children

Researchers propose a study to determine if a recording of their mother’s voice reduces emergence delirium after anesthesia in children.

Patients recovering from anesthesia sometimes experience a condition known as “emergence delirium”, which causes them to be confused or hallucinate after they regain consciousness. While it is certainly an uncomfortable experience, it can be dangerous too. “Delirious” patients often move around, sometimes violently, and can reopen their incisions or injure themselves. Researchers in South Korea speculate whether they can reduce emergence delirium after anesthesia in children by using a recording of their mother’s voice.

Previous studies have shown that a mother’s voice can activate specific areas of the child’s brain. Mother’s voices have also been shown to affect behavioral and neural responses in their children, even causing them to be more attentive involuntarily.

This study protocol, recently published in Trials, states that the trial will involve recording the mother’s voice asking the child to wake up. The recording will then be played for the child over noise-cancelling headphones while the child is recovering from anesthesia. The control group will hear the same words from a stranger.

The trial will include 66 children ages two to eight years old recruited from outpatient clinics before having scheduled eye, ear, nose, or throat surgeries. They will be evenly split into two groups using randomization software. Only the anesthesia nurse will know if the children receive the recording of their mother’s voice or the stranger’s voice. This will be the first randomized controlled trial to investigate the effect of a mother’s voice on emergence delirium.

Researchers plan to quantify their results by assigning scores to indicators such as patient awareness and restlessness. The scores will then be used in statistical analyses to determine if there is a significant difference in emergence delirium between children who hear their mother’s voice and children who hear a stranger’s voice. If initial results are inconclusive they will recruit more patients for the study.

If a recording of the mother’s voice can help children undergoing anesthesia avoid emergence delirium, it will be an exciting low-risk option that could help keep children safe as well as reducing their anxiety at a critical time.

Written by Courtney Hall, BSc

Song et al. Trials (2017) 18:430 DOI 10.1186/s13063-017-2164-4

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