Patients have misconceptions and high levels of anxiety about general anesthesia

May 20, 2010

Eight-five per cent of patients who took part in a survey shortly after day surgery said that they had been anxious about receiving a general anaesthetic, according to research in the May issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Seventeen per cent of respondents said they were very or extremely anxious, 22 per cent said they were quite anxious, 46 per cent said they were a little anxious and 15 per cent experienced no anxiety at all.

Key concerns included dying while asleep, not waking up after , waking up during surgery and anxiety while waiting to go into surgery or arriving at the theatre door.

"Our survey underlines the importance of patients receiving planned and timely information about anaesthesia, prior to the day of surgery, in order to limit their anxiety" says Dr Mark Mitchell, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of Salford, UK.

"This should include information about how anaesthesia is managed, the notion of carefully controlled and supervised anaesthesia and dispelling misconceptions associated with general anaesthesia."

Patients scheduled for elective surgery in three day surgery units in England were invited to take part in the survey and 460 patients - a response rate of 37 per cent - completed the questionnaire within 24 to 48 hours of surgery.

The patients who took part were aged between 18 and 75, with an average age of 46, and 59 per cent were female. The majority had undergone gynaecological, general, orthopaedic, urological and ear, nose and throat surgery.

Patients were asked to indicate their anxiety levels about 24 different issues. This showed that:

  • The top three concerns that made patients very anxious were the thought of not waking up (26 per cent), dying while asleep (25 per cent) and waking up during surgery (20 per cent).
  • When the researchers combined all the patients who were anxious, the top five concerns were: waiting for their turn in theatre (59 per cent), the thought of arriving at the theatre door (56 per cent), dying while asleep or not waking up afterwards (both 48 per cent) and waking up during surgery (46 per cent).
  • Forty-one per cent said that they didn't like the thought of having to put their trust in strangers and 12 per cent felt very anxious about this.
  • Anxiety levels were lowest when it came to interactions with medical staff and the support of a partner or friend. Thirty per cent felt very calm about the anaesthetist explaining the procedure, 28 per cent about the anaesthetist visiting and 17 per cent about the nurse explaining the procedure. Twenty-six per cent felt very calm about having a friend or partner with them during recovery.
"Undergoing day surgery and general anaesthesia is very common" says Dr Mitchell. "The development of less invasive techniques means that the surgical effects on the body are now markedly reduced and, as a direct consequence, the amount of physical nursing care required before and after surgery is also considerable reduced.

"However, while patients need less physical nursing care, our survey shows that more attention needs to be paid to the psychological aspects of their care.

"The formal and timely provision of information about the planned surgery - together with a patient-centred approach to the provision of information, such as pre-assessment clinics - are vital first steps.

"It is clear from our study that many patients do not know how the anaesthesia process works and that this has led to misconceptions about, for example, waking up during surgery. It is vital to tackle these if we are to reduce patient anxiety before day surgery."

Explore further: Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

More information: General anaesthesia and day-case patient anxiety. Mitchell et al. 66.5, pp 1059-1071. Journal of Advanced Nursing. (May 2010). DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05266.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Should patients undergoing surgery take Aspirin?

Oct 23, 2006

A national survey of Canadian surgeons by researchers at McMaster University found little consistency in their use of the blood thinner Aspirin in patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery.

Aprotinin associated with increased risk of death

May 14, 2008

Aprotinin is associated with a 50 per cent increase in the relative risk of death, according to a major Canadian clinical trial comparing three drugs routinely used to prevent blood loss during heart surgery. The trial, published ...

Recommended for you

Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

Oct 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—Simulation-based training (SBT) improves clinicians' performance of gastrointestinal endoscopy in both test settings and clinical practice, according to research published in the October issue ...

Data sharing in pharmaceutical industry shows progress

Oct 16, 2014

To enhance the transparency of clinical trials for new drugs, a number of pharmaceutical firms have begun sharing data with investigators outside their own companies. Brian L. Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health ...

Swiss drug maker Roche posts flat 3Q sales

Oct 16, 2014

(AP)—Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG has reported "stable" or flat sales for the first nine months of 2013 but says the results show strong demand for its cancer drugs and emerging new products.

User comments : 0