The preoperative use of the relaxation response with ambulatory surgery patients

J Human Stress. 1987 Fall;13(3):101-7. doi: 10.1080/0097840X.1987.9936801.


The efficacy of the regular elicitation of the relaxation response in reducing surgical anxiety and pain in an ambulatory surgery setting was studied in a population of patients scheduled for the surgical removal of a skin cancer. Forty-nine patients with skin cancer were enrolled in the study immediately after being informed of the ned for surgery; 21 of these patients elicited the relaxation response 20 minutes per day until the day of surgery, 21 read for 20 minutes per day, and 7 were noncompliant and were excluded from the study. Contrary to expectations, neither group of patients showed any increase in anxiety immediately before or after surgery on either psychological or physiological measures. Thus, there were no differences between the two groups on any of the psychological or physiological measures of anxiety, nor were there any differences in pain perception. There were statistically significant subjective differences; the experimental patients stated that the relaxation-response technique had reduced their anxiety several days before surgery and reportedly experienced their highest levels of anxiety prior to entering the study, while the controls experienced their highest levels of anxiety during and after surgery. This suggests that (1) minor outpatient surgery does not lead to detectable increased anxiety levels on the day of surgery and (2) regular elicitation of the relaxation response can alter subjective reports of distress associated with surgery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures*
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Humans
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Random Allocation
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery