Home » News » Stress Management » Innovative Methods to Relieve Stress during Surgery

Innovative Methods to Relieve Stress during Surgery

As more surgeries are being performed with regional or local anesthesia, being conscious during a procedure is often associated with generalized anxiety and maybe pain.

New research from the U.K. has discovered that simple distraction techniques, such as talking to a nurse, watching a DVD, or using stress balls, can help a patient relax and reduce their pain.

Investigators from the University of Surrey followed 398 individuals as they received varicose vein surgery. As reported in the European Journal of Pain, the researchers split the study participants into four groups.

The first group was played music during their surgery, while the second was offered a choice of DVD to watch from a wall-mounted monitor.

In the third group, a dedicated nurse was positioned next to the patient’s head to interact with them throughout the procedure. The nurse was instructed not to touch the patient’s hand during surgery, but to try and engage them in conversation.

In the fourth group, two palm-sized stress balls were given to participants once they were comfortably in place on the operating table. They were instructed to squeeze these whenever they were feeling anxious or if they anticipated or experienced any uncomfortable sensations.

Researchers measured anxiety and pain levels through a short questionnaire, immediately after the surgery.

The results showed that:

  • the group that watched a DVD showed 25 percent less anxiety than those who received treatment as usual (but no differences for pain);
  • the group that interacted with a nurse showed 30 percent less anxiety and 16 percent less pain than those who received treatment as usual;
  • the group that used stress balls showed 18 percent less anxiety and 22 percent less pain than those who received treatment as usual;
  • music did not have any effect on anxiety or pain.
  • Investigators report that this is the first study to examine the effect of simple distraction techniques on patients undergoing varicose vein surgery.

    The team of researchers focused on this type of surgery as it is usually done with the patient awake, using a local anesthetic. In addition, during this surgery, patients have previously experienced a burning sensation and have reported unfamiliar smells, sounds, and feelings.

    As they are awake throughout, they have also reported overhearing conversations between the surgeon and nurse, containing upsetting details about the surgery.

    Although the procedure is highly effective and safe, patients often experience anxiety, as they are fully aware of everything that is happening.

    “Undergoing conscious surgery can be a stressful experience for patients,” said study author Dr. Jane Ogden from the University of Surrey.

    “Finding ways of making them feel more comfortable is really important. The use of simple distraction techniques can significantly improve patient experience.

    “Our research has found a simple and inexpensive way to improve patients’ experiences of this common and unpleasant procedure, and could be used for a wide range of other operations carried out without a general anesthetic.

    This could also include the great number of exploratory procedures, such as colonoscopies and hysteroscopies, which are all done while patients are conscious.”

    Source: University of Surrey

Innovative Methods to Relieve Stress during Surgery

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Innovative Methods to Relieve Stress during Surgery. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Feb 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.