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Children’s negative thoughts and anxieties about elective surgery reduced by play

A therapeutic play intervention could reduce perioperative anxiety and postoperative pain in children undergoing elective surgery, suggests a randomised controlled trial.

Children aged six to 14 years who were scheduled to undergo surgery at a hospital in Singapore were recruited to the study from November 2011 to August 2013. They received either routine preparation for their operation plus a pamphlet about the procedure (control group, n =47), or a one-hour therapeutic play intervention (experimental group, n =48).

The play intervention, which took place three to seven days before the surgery, involved viewing a video about preparing for the operation, looking at photos of the operating room, and using a doll to demonstrate pre-operative procedures and anaesthesia induction. Children received a manual describing medical equipment. Parents were also encouraged to play with their child at home using an oxygen mask and cannula.

Compared with the control group, children in the experimental group demonstrated significantly lower scores of negative emotions before anaesthesia induction and postoperative pain.

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