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iPads May Be Better Than Sedatives for Kids About to Undergo Surgery

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People may grumble about kids today and their technology, but in doing so, they overlook a very important element: A lot of that technology helps families live happier, healthier lives. A small study presented during the World Congress of Anesthesiologists found that iPads were as effective as sedative drugs at calming kids and parents before surgery, and even better at increasing the efficacy of anesthesia.

The prospect of undergoing a surgical procedure can be scary for anyone. To calm patients down, hospitals often administer a sedative medication before wheeling them off to the anesthesiologist. Studies have shown that being afraid can increase pain, which means that reducing fear is crucial not only for the patient's state of mind but also for the surgery's success.

Consequently, scientists and medical practitioners are interested in finding ways to reduce that fear. A 2014 study found that kids were calmer and responded better to anesthesia when their parents were allowed to join them in the room; however, other researchers have argued that the reverse is true, and that parents’ anxiety rubs off on their children. While the pro- and anti-parental presence factions sort it out, other scientists continue to look for alternatives.

Researchers in France recruited the families of 112 children scheduled for surgery. About half (54) of the kids received the standard treatment, a sedative called midazolam, 20 minutes before anesthesia. The other group (58 kids) were told to spend 20 minutes playing with an iPad stocked with games. Each kid was assigned two psychologists, who measured the young patients’ anxiety at five time points: at arrival to the hospital; when they were separated from their parents for anesthesia; during the administration of anesthesia; as they waited for the anesthesia to kick in; and as they were being taken to the surgery ward. The same psychologists also kept track of anxiety in the patients’ parents and asked them to rate the anesthesia procedure.

Lead researcher Dominique Chassard is an anesthesiology expert and hospital director at Hôpital Femme Mère Enfant in Bron. "Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anaesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad,” he said in a statement.

They found that iPads also have an edge over sedatives on three counts: no side effects; higher parental satisfaction; and a boost in efficacy for anesthesia. “Use of iPads or other tablet devices is a non-pharmacologic tool which can reduce perioperative stress without any sedative effect in paediatric ambulatory surgery," Chassard said.

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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