Is elective surgery traumatic for children and their parents?

J Paediatr Child Health. 2006 Oct;42(10):618-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2006.00938.x.


Aim: The emotional consequences of elective surgery to children and to their parents have not been sufficiently studied. The aim of the present study was to prospectively assess the prevalence and severity of post-traumatic, anxiety and depressive symptoms in this population.

Methods: Forty children and adolescents consecutively admitted for elective surgery in a general hospital participated in the study. Their parents were also assessed. The assessments were made on the day of admission and surgery, and 1 and 6 months after the surgery.

Results: Minor post-traumatic symptoms of the children were noted at the first and second assessments, decreasing significantly at the 6-month assessment. Further, the prevalence of children with elevated post-traumatic symptoms decreased significantly between the first and second assessments. Parents scored highest for anxiety and depression at the first assessment. Their symptoms, however, decreased significantly within 1 month. A significant decrease between the first and second assessments was also noted in the prevalence of parents with elevated anxiety symptoms. At the 1- and 6-month follow-up assessments, there was a significant correlation between the children's symptoms and their parents'.

Conclusion: Mild post-traumatic symptoms may accompany paediatric elective surgery and persist for at least 1 month. Parents may also manifest anxiety and depressive symptoms, which may diminish earlier, that is, immediately after the surgery or within 1 month.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures / psychology*
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*