Zeev Kain, M.D., professor in the Departments of Anaesthesiology, Paediatrics, and the Yale Child Study Centre, and the lead author, explained that this study is of considerable importance as more than five million children in the US undergo surgery every year and up to 45% experience significant stress and anxiety prior to surgery.
In his five-year study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Kain and his team recruited 241 children aged five- to 12-years-old who were scheduled to undergo elective tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. The personality characteristics of the children and their parents were assessed before the surgery. All of the children were admitted to a research unit at Yale following the surgery and postoperative pain and analgesic consumption were recorded every hour. After 24 hours in the hospital, the children were discharged and followed up at home for the next 14 days.
The researchers found that anxious children experienced more problems emerging from anaesthesia and significantly more pain both during the hospital stay and over the first three days at home. During home recovery anxious children also consumed significantly more codeine and acetaminophen and had a higher incidence of postoperative anxiety and sleep problems.
"The results of our study indicate that decreasing the anxiety of children before surgery will result in improved recovery after surgery, reduced pain, and lower hospital costs," Kain said. "But ongoing randomised, controlled trials are needed to clearly draw this conclusion." Kain and his colleagues currently are examining this issue in an NIH funded study.