Anxiety and postoperative pain in children who undergo major orthopedic surgery

L L Lamontagne, J T Hepworth, M H Salisbury
Applied Nursing Research: ANR 2001, 14 (3): 119-24
Anxiety and pain are major concerns not only for children who undergo surgery, but also for their parents and health care professionals. A convenience sample of 74 adolescents who underwent major orthopedic surgery for repair of idiopathic scoliosis and their parents was used to investigate the relationships among children's and parents' preoperative and postoperative anxiety and children's postoperative pain. Age-appropriate versions of Spielberger's State-Anxiety scales measured children's and parents' anxiety, and a visual analog scale assessed children's pain intensities. Children's state anxiety increased from preoperative to postoperative levels, and their postoperative anxiety levels positively related to their pain intensities on days 2 and 4 following the operation. Parents' anxiety decreased from preoperative to postoperative levels, and their postoperative anxiety positively related to their children's postoperative anxiety. Studying both parents and children helped to explain the variance in children's self-reported anxiety. Parents' emotional states are important indicators of children's emotional states and, subsequently, their pain experience. The results of this study suggest that allowing children to assist in the assessment of their postoperative pain may help health care professionals better understand the subjective component of pain. The findings also emphasize the importance of including parents in future studies in which the aim is to understand children's behavioral responses and recovery outcomes.

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