We sought to determine whether an extensive behavioral preparation program for children undergoing surgery is more effective than a limited behavioral program. The primary end point was child and parent anxiety during the preoperative period. Secondary end points included behavior of the child during the induction of anesthesia and the postoperative recovery period. Several days before surgery, children (n = 75) aged 2-12 yr randomly received either an information-based program (OR tour), an information + modeling-based program (OR tour + videotape), or an information + modeling + coping-based program (OR tour + videotape + child-life preparation). Using behavioral and physiological measures of anxiety, we found that children who received the extensive program exhibited less anxiety immediately after the intervention, in the holding area on the day of surgery, and on separation to the operating room. These findings, however, achieved statistical significance only in the holding area on the day of surgery (44[10-72] vs 32[8-50] vs 9[6-33]; P = 0.02). Similarly, parents in the extensive program were significantly less anxious on the day of surgery in the preoperative holding area, as assessed by behavioral (P = 0.015) and physiological measures (P = 0.01). In contrast, no differences were found among the groups during the induction of anesthesia, recovery room period, or 2 wk postoperatively. We conclude that children and parents who received the extensive preoperative preparation program exhibited lower levels of anxiety during the preoperative period, but not during the intraoperative or postoperative periods.
Implications: The extensive behavioral preoperative program that we undertook had limited anxiolytic effects. These effects were localized to the preoperative period and did not extended to the induction of anesthesia or the postoperative recovery period.