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Alleviating Surgical Anxiety and Pain in Children

Finding ways to lessen children’s anxiety and pain just before and after surgery is at the heart of a new pilot program launched by a University of California – Irvine anesthesiologist, Dr. Zeev Kain, professor and chair of anesthesiology & perioperative care. 

Kain will use a $3.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to establish the program, called Provider-Tailored Intervention for Perioperative Stress (P-TIPS), at four California children’s hospitals.

“Some 4 million children undergo surgery in the U.S. each year, and up to 65 percent of them experience significant anxiety and distress before surgery,” said Kain, a national leader in perioperative biopsychosocial research. “Not only is this traumatic for these young patients, but it also contributes to increased postoperative pain and delayed hospital discharge. A program like P-TIPS is specifically tailored to improve pediatric surgical outcomes.”

P-TIPS works by encouraging specific behaviors in adults — doctors and parents — that will help ensure a calmer atmosphere for children about to go into surgery.  Surgical staff and anesthesiologists will be trained to incorporate warm and positive behaviors into their interactions with the young patients and their parents , including the use of humor, eye contact and speaking with simple medical terms.

“It’s important that health care providers not overwhelm children with complicated medical jargon or overly reassuring statements,” Kain said. “We’ve found that a friendly and direct conversational approach lowers undesirable stress and anxiety.”

The P-TIPS study will be launched in UC Irvine Medical Center-CHOC Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, UC San Diego-Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego and Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Kain is using another NIH grant to develop and implement an Internet site — Web-based Tailored Intervention Preparation for Surgery (WebTIPS) — to help parents alleviate their child’s anxiety, as well as their own, and correctly handle postsurgical pain the healing process.

WebTIPS will supply parents with important information regarding surgical procedures and postoperative pain management. It will also offer a personalized plan for alleviating pain and anxiety based on the family’s medical and psychological factors, including the parents’ coping and caring skills.

Source:  University of California

Alleviating Surgical Anxiety and Pain in Children
APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Alleviating Surgical Anxiety and Pain in Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.