Introduction: Intravenous (IV) cannulation is commonly performed in emergency departments (ED), often causing substantial pain and distress. Distraction has been shown to reduce child-reported pain, but there is currently little published about the effects of using iPad technology as a distraction tool. Our primary objective was to compare the reduction of pain and distress using iPad distraction (games, movies, books of the child’s choice) in addition to standard care, versus standard care alone. Methods: This randomized clinical trial, conducted at the Stollery Childrens Hospital ED, recruited children between ages 6 to 11 years requiring IV cannulation. Study arm assignment was performed using REDCaps randomization feature. Due to the nature of the intervention, blinding was not possible for the children, parents or research and ED staff, but the data analyst was blinded to intervention assignment until completion of analysis. Pain, distress, and parental anxiety were measured using the Faces Pain Scale-Revised, the Observed Scale of Behavioural Distress-Revised, and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, respectively. The pain scores and observed behavioural distress scores were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test. Other co-variates were analyzed using a linear regression analysis. Results: A total of 85 children were enrolled, with 42 receiving iPad distraction and 43 standard care, of which 40 (95%) and 35 (81%) children received topical anesthesia, respectively (p=0.09). There were 40 girls (47.1%) with a mean age of 8.32 +/− 1.61 years. The pain scores during IV cannulation (p=0.35) and the change in pain score during the procedure compared to baseline (p=0.79) were not significantly different between the groups, nor were the observed distress scores during IV cannulation (p=0.09), or the change in observed distress during the procedure compared to baseline (p=0.44). A regression analysis showed children in both groups had greater total behavioural stress if it was their first ED visit (p=0.01), had prior hospitalization experience (p=0.04) or were admitted to hospital during this visit (p=0.007). A previous ED visit, however, was predictive of a greater increase in parental anxiety from baseline (p=0.02). When parents were asked whether they would use the same methods to manage pain for their child, parents of the iPad group were more likely to say yes than were parents of the standard care group (p=0.03). Conclusion: iPad distraction during IV cannulation in school-aged children was not found to decrease pain or distress more than standard care alone, but parents preferred its use. The effects of iPad distraction may have been over-shadowed by potent topical anesthetic effect. Future directions include exploring iPad distraction for other age groups, and studying novel technology such as virtual reality and interactive humanoid robots.
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