Research Horizons


Game to Reduce Surgery Anxiety for Children Invented Here

Columbus company to market EZ Induction product to hospitals nationwide

Abby Hess, APRN, DNP, a nurse practitioner who works closely with kids about to undergo surgery through her role with the Department of Anesthesia at Cincinnati Children’s, noticed that many youngsters became anxious when an anesthesia mask was placed over their face in the operating room.


“I wanted to find a way to help kids feel calmer during this high-anxiety moment,” Hess said.


So, she came up with a clever solution. Hess collaborated with the Innovation Ventures team at Cincinnati Children’s to create, prototype, and test a breathing-controlled video game to help young kids relax when it’s time to put on an anesthesia mask and fall asleep for surgery.


Now, a Columbus, Ohio, firm has licensed the right to market the tablet-based computer application to other hospitals. 


Cincinnati Children’s recently became the first medical center in the United States to pilot the product, called EZ Induction, which could be a game changer for hospitals that perform surgery on children. 


The gaming app, which features cartoon animals that children are able to move by breathing into a mask, helps reduce anxiety during the anesthesia-induction process.


The invention has been licensed to LittleSeed Calming Technologies LLC, which plans to launch EZ Induction in 2023. 


Each year, thousands of kids at Cincinnati Children’s and millions elsewhere across the US are given anesthesia for surgery. That includes medical and dental procedures. 


Anesthesia is commonly administered through a mask to kids who are 10 years old or younger. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals and parents to prepare a child for the experience, many youngsters cry and resist the anesthesia mask.


This experience is stressful for kids, parents, and medical staff. Additionally, studies have shown that high anxiety before surgery is associated with poorer outcomes after surgery. 


The breathing-controlled EZ Induction product was designed to transform a scary anesthesia mask into a fun game controller. When the child puts on the mask and starts to breathe in and out, they win different challenges in the engaging animal-themed world of the game. The child learns how to play the game in a preoperative area, and then is offered the opportunity to play the final level when they go back to the operating room to fall asleep for surgery.  


“The game shifts the focus from something scary to something that’s calming and fun,” Hess said. “It easily engages kids, teaches them to breathe calmly, and lets them know what to expect when they go back to the operating room. Seeing their child engage with the game also helps parents feel at ease and provides them with a novel way to coach their child during the process.” 


Read the full story at our Newsroom


View a short video about how Abby and her team are changing the outcome through innovation.