‘Throne of Phun’ provides distraction therapy for children having blood drawn

Having blood drawn can be scary for young children, but a device developed for Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) by freshmen at Rice University may make the procedure less traumatizing.

Team "Throne of Phun" students and their teaching assistant from left: Caz Smith (TA), Peter Park, Brayan Reyes, Emily Wang and Sylvia Jung. Submitted photo.

Team “Throne of Phun” students and their teaching assistant from left: Caz Smith (TA), Peter Park, Brayan Reyes, Emily Wang and Sylvia Jung. Submitted photo.

Students Emily Wang, Brayan Reyes, Peter Park and Sylvia Jung developed the “Throne of Phun” to be used in conjunction with phlebotomy chairs for children ages 2 through 12. The device, developed at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, implements distraction therapy — a way of helping a patient cope with a painful or difficult experience by directing their mind to something else. The therapy is intended specifically for long-term patients who have frequent blood testing.

Drawing blood from a patient can take several minutes. Current phlebotomy chairs are designed to keep the patient in a fixed position during the procedure, allowing space and visibility for the phlebotomist and the patient to look at and access the arm.

“However, patients looking at their arm during the procedure is not always a good thing,” Jung said. “This is particularly true when patients see a needle or blood, or when the patient is a child.”

The device designed by the students is made of out of lightweight aluminum with a wooden base and is adjustable so that it can accommodate the height of the patient. It features a removable partition that can be used to block an ongoing procedure from the patient’s view. It also includes an arm that moves to either side of the patient. The device can be positioned different ways and can hold gaming devices or iPads to occupy the patient’s attention during the procedure.

The "Throne of Phun" device. Submitted photo.

The “Throne of Phun” device.

“Children often struggle with staying still during phlebotomy procedures due to the discomfort they experience,” Reyes said. “In these situations, especially when patients panic at the sight of a needle, it can be difficult or impossible to draw blood. Research has shown that distraction therapy is effective in increasing pain tolerance and calming patients during the procedure.”

Phlebotomy chairs used in hospitals provide little to no distraction for children, Wang said. Hospitals provide colorful rolling cabinets and boxes full of toys, but “they had limitations,” she said.

“The existing products did not obstruct the patient’s view of the needle and could cost up to $1,000,” Park said.

The Throne of Phun costs about $100 to make. While there are not current plans in place for mass production, the students hope that hospitals will be able to use their design in building the devices in the future.

For more information on other design projects at the OEDK, visit http://oedk.rice.edu/.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.