The role of distraction in paediatric burns management: a review

Dr Nicholas Tang1

1Royal Melbourne Hospital, Mount Waverley, Australia


Background:  Beyond the initial insult of the burn itself, the path to recovery is often long and tortuous. The need for ongoing debridement, regular dressings changes, functional rehabilitation and scar management is often a source of ongoing distress to the patient. On both a physiological and emotional level, children are perhaps the most vulnerable cohort, with inadequate pain management influencing a child’s pain perception and behavioural process in later life[1, 2]. A combination of pharmacological therapies in addition to adjunctive non-pharmacological management techniques enables a holistic approach to the treatment of the burned patient. While the distraction techniques utilising virtual reality has proved itself as a beneficial complement to drug therapy[3], not all healthcare services (including rural, regional and GP centre) are in a position to afford this technology. The aim of this study is to assess the role and efficacy of Information and Communications Technology(ICT) based distraction techniques in paediatric burns.

Methods: A systematic search of the PubMed, Medline and Google Scholar databases was performed from the date of their inception through to now using a combination of the following search terms with MeSH: ‘Distraction or Attention’, ‘Infant or Child or Paediatric ’, ‘App’ and ‘Burn or Burns’. Inclusion criteria included clinical articles that described implementation of ICT-based distraction techniques in burns care.

Discussion: The literature search yielded 6 articles for inclusion in the final review. 4 randomised trials, 1 qualitative study surveying health professionals’ experiences and 1 case study was identified.  Distraction techniques included self-developed interactive tools and tablet hardware. All articles demonstrated benefits with the use of complementary distraction techniques during the management of burns’ patients.

Conclusion: While VR technology is not available to all healthcare providers, other forms of distraction provides a useful non-pharmacological therapy that should be considered in the management of burned paediatric patients.


Nick is currently a surgical HMO at the Royal Melbourne Hospital

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