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5/28/24 news article

Dayton Children’s research highlighted in The Lancet

Team comprised of experts from anesthesia and child life research connection between patients with Autism and use of sensory room for outpatient surgery

Research from Dayton Children’s Hospital exploring the use of sensory rooms for patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was published in a recent edition of The Lancet Regional Health - Americas, one of the world’s leading publications for medical professionals.

The research team, led by Sean Antosh, MD, pediatric anesthesiologist at Dayton Children’s, aimed to evaluate the use of an adaptive sensory environment or sensory room to reduce ASD patient anxiety during the perioperative process. Patients with ASD experience higher rates of perioperative anxiety and are more likely to receive premedication. However, little is known about nonpharmaceutical interventions which may decrease anxiety. The research was the first randomized controlled trial studying the impact of an adaptive sensory environment on perioperative anxiety in children with ASD.

the study

The trial consisted of approximately 60 patients, ages 3-12, with a formal diagnosis of ASD, Asperger’s Syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.  

Dayton Children’s already has individualized coping plans developed by the hospital’s child life team in place that have shown benefit in the perioperative management of children with ASD. The goal of this study was to see if the coping plan in conjunction with the sensory rooms decreased anxiety in the patients.

For this study, half of the patients were placed in a sensory room and the other half used a standard perioperative room.

The sensory room included items such as:

  • Portable popcorn tube with fiberoptic cart
  • Handheld marble panel
  • Color-changing floor tiles
  • Sensory fidgets
  • Individual sensory toys

The control room was a standard perioperative room consisting of a bed, chairs and various medical equipment.


The hospital’s study did not provide statistically significant evidence that a sensory room based on a patient’s individualized coping plan is effective in decreasing preoperative anxiety in patients with ASD compared to patients in a control group. However, there is a trend in the data which indicates an additional study is needed to look at the clinical use of sensory rooms and the patient population that can benefit from them.

“We’re excited about the research underway at Dayton Children’s to better support patients with ASD and other sensory processing disorders,” said Dr. Antosh. “At Dayton Children’s, we’re committed to creating the best and safest experience for all patients. This research is just one step of many that we’ve taken to ensure we’re delivering an inclusive, thoughtful space to provide care to all patients that come to Dayton Children’s.”

Team members from Dayton Children’s that participated in the study included Sean Antosh, MD, Shobhan Vachhrajani, MD, PhD, Chelsea Drennan, Adrienne Stolfi, PhD, Robin Lawson, Elise Huntley, Reaundra McCullough-Roach, Madelyn Hill and Tahira Adelekan, MD.

The study was made possible through funding from the Dayton Children’s Foundation Robert C. Cohen Memorial Research Grant.

The published paper, “Use of an adaptive sensory environment in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the perioperative environment: a parallel, randomized controlled trial,” can be viewed here

Sean Antosh, MD

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