Many children become hysterical at the sight of needles, whereas some adults avoid the doctor's office altogether. The researchers said that decorated needles appeared to make the patients less stressed, thereby increasing the quality of care.
The study suggested that such decorations seemed to interfere with an established link between visual recognition of a perceived threat and the subsequent emotional response to that threat.
The researchers found that patients favored syringes, needles and IV bags which were decorated with flowers, musical notes and smiley faces.
The subjects of the study were 60 patients from outpatient clinics at the Health Sciences Center who were randomly exposed to eight designs of winged needles, like one decorated as a butterfly, as well as six designs of syringes fitted with a needle.
It was found that 80 per cent of the subjects experienced moderate to severe aversion, 63 per cent suffered moderate to severe fear and 62 per cent showed moderate to severe anxiety when exposed to conventional syringes.
However the decorated syringes was found to reduce the aversion in patients by 68 per cent, anxiety by 53 per cent and fear by 53 per cent.
Wilmer Sibbitt, a professor in UNM's School of Medicine, said these decorated medical devices probably form a neurophysiological intervention which results in stimulation of brain areas that are not usually associated with anxiety, fear and aversion.
He said, "It would be great to see these types of decorated needles, syringes, and IV bags mass produced."