Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences
Cumming School of Medicine
TRW 3rd Floor
3330 Hospital Drive NW
Calgary, AB T4N 4Z6
Pain management and anxiety reduction in pediatric care
Primary Area of Research:
Untreated pain in children undergoing medical procedures is epidemic, with both short- and long-term consequences. It can increase hospital stay, slow the healing process, and cause unnecessary suffering which may be perceived as worse than the pain caused by the original injury. As adults, thesechildren may not access healthcare when needed. Pain experienced as young children can alter the formation of neuronal networks, resulting in these networks becoming over-stimulated when encountering a noxious stimulus, and culminating in a hypersensitive and elevated behavioural response. Sources of needle pain such as intravenous (IV) cannulation, blood draw, and flu vaccination are among the most common and distressing medical procedures performed on children. Despite the availability of pharmacological treatments (eg. anaesthetic creams) for pain reduction, their effectiveness can be limited, and non-pharmacological treatments are emerging as a newly favoured adjunct to pharmacotherapy. Further, in situations where pharmacotherapy might not be possible (i.e. time restraints, allergy to drug), distraction techniques can be used, and are certainly preferable to no pain therapy. The importance of pain management has been emphasized by key societies, including the World Health Organization. Thus, to both improve health outcomes for children and adhere to best practices, effective pain reduction methods for common medical procedures are urgently needed. My research focuses on the efficacy of intervention in the form of humanoid robotics. Given children's growing enthusiasm for technological devices, I am testing the use of technologically enhanced devices that may create more distraction and have a greater impact on pain reduction outcomes. From our first study using a humanoid robot to interact with children during flu vaccination, we are finding that this "techno-psychological" approach is active and engaging, which seems to provide a greater distraction than the passive activities of listening to music or watching cartoons, as tested in previous research.