We determined whether children who are extremely anxious during the induction of anesthesia are more at risk of developing postoperative negative behavioral changes compared with children who appear calm during the induction process. Children (n = 91) aged 1-7 yr scheduled for general anesthesia and elective outpatient surgery were recruited. Using validated measures of preoperative anxiety and postoperative behaviors, children were evaluated during the induction of general anesthesia and on Postoperative Days 1, 2, 3, 7, and 14. Using a multivariate logistic regression model, in which the dependent variable was the presence or absence of postoperative negative behavioral changes and the independent variables included several potential predictors, we demonstrated that anxiety of the child, time after surgery, and type of surgical procedure were predictors for postoperative maladaptive behavior. The frequency of negative postoperative behavioral changes decreased with time after surgery, and the frequency of negative postoperative behavioral changes increased when the child exhibited increased anxiety during the induction of anesthesia. Finally, we found a significant correlation (r) of 0.42 (P = 0.004) between the anxiety of the child during induction and the excitement score on arrival to the postanesthesia care unit. We conclude that children who are anxious during the induction of anesthesia have an increased likelihood of developing postoperative negative behavioral changes. We recommend that anesthesiologists advise parents of children who are anxious during the induction of anesthesia of the increased likelihood that their children will develop postoperative negative behavioral changes such as nightmares, separation anxiety, and aggression toward authority.
Implications: Anesthesiologists who care for children who are anxious during the induction of anesthesia should inform parents that these children have an increased likelihood of developing postoperative negative behavioral changes.