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New Radiation Therapy Approach Favors Movies, Traffic Lights Over Pediatric Sedation

A Texas research team is exploring a unique alternative to sedation for pediatric patients who must stay completely still for radiation therapy procedures. The novel approach uses children’s movies and a type of “traffic light” to limit movement.

For children, anesthesia may have long-term effects on cognitive development. In addition, young patients cannot have food or water for up to 12 hours before a session. “A child may not completely understand why he or she cannot eat or drink before radiation,” said Manish Vaidya, associate professor in the University of North Texas Department of Behavior Analysis in a news release. “And that could negatively impact relationships with parents."

Known as Pediatric Radiation Oncology with Movie-Induced Sedation Effect, or PROMISE, a cartoon is projected upward on a ceiling screen while a video surveillance system monitors the child’s motion. It displays a green traffic light if the child is still, but if the child moves too much, the traffic light turns yellow and the cartoon pauses. If the child continues moving, the traffic light turns red and the cartoon disappears. However, if the child returns to the treatment position, both the green light and the cartoon resume.

"The total time for receiving radiation therapy is usually no more than 30 minutes, so our focus with healthy children is to create very short testing sessions," Vaidya said. The project is funded by a $900,000 grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

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