When are parents helpful? A randomized clinical trial of the efficacy of parental presence for pediatric anesthesia

Can J Anaesth. 2010 Aug;57(8):751-8. doi: 10.1007/s12630-010-9333-1. Epub 2010 May 25.


Purpose: To examine the utility of parental presence to alleviate anxiety in a narrow age range of children undergoing outpatient surgery. We hypothesized that parental presence would lower anxiety scores as measured by the modified Yale Preoperative Anxiety Scale (mYPAS) at two time-points during pediatric outpatient surgery, i.e., separation from parents and placement of the face mask for anesthetic induction.

Method: Sixty-one children ages three to six years scheduled for various day surgery procedures participated in this study. The children were assigned randomly to either parental presence (n = 30) or parental absence (n = 31) groups. Observer-rated anxiety was measured by the mYPAS at five time-points during the surgery experience.

Results: Child anxiety was significantly lower in the parental presence group than in the parental absence group at the time-point when the children in the parental absence group were separated from their parents, t[59] = 2.15 (P = 0.001). However, no significant group differences in anxiety scores were noted at other time-points.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that anxiety levels in children undergoing day surgical procedures differ as a function of parental presence at the point when children are separated from parents. Future research should examine the types of interactions that occur during this time-point that may explain this finding.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Anesthesia*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Preoperative Care
  • Psychological Tests