Anxiety treatments can calm patients’ fears of surgery

Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker of the University of Haifa said the combined technique has “real potential to alleviate fears of patients and improve the results of the operation.

July 5, 2016 03:03
1 minute read.

Haifa University. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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Integrating standard treatment for anxiety about having surgery with complementary medicine techniques has been found successful in calming patients about to undergo an operation, according to new research at the University of Haifa and the city’s Bnai Zion Medical Center.

Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker of the University of Haifa said the combined technique has “real potential to alleviate fears of patients and improve the results of the operation. Offering this to patients should be seriously considered.”

Fears before surgery can be expressed by elevated blood pressure, a speedy heartbeat, changes in sugar metabolism and other side effects.

It is also one of the significant predictors of death after heart and vascular surgery, and can needlessly lengthen the recovery period.

Shmuel Attias, who carried out the research for his master of public health degree thesis under the supervision of Keinan-Boker and Dr. Elad Schiff of Bnai Zion, wanted to know whether complementary medicine techniques could help conventional methods reduce patients’ anxiety.

Participating were 360 patients over the age of 16 who were about to have elective surgery. The first group received anti-anxiety mediation some 120 to 160 minutes before the operation.

A second group underwent such treatment as well as acupuncture, reflexology, personal guided imagery or a combination of reflexology and guided imagery.

The third group had standard drug treatment and guided imagery using a recording, and not administered on a one-to-one basis.

Levels of anxiety, from one to 10, were recorded, with four considered moderate.

According to the researcher, the anxiety of those who received integrated treatment was reduced by 60 percent, while those who received only medication had an average rise from 4.92 before the operation, to 5.44.

Even after getting the medications, 70% of the patients still reported moderate to high anxiety.

But those with integrated treatment of medication, guided imagery and reflexology had an anxiety average of 4.22; 3.63 with standard treatment, reflexology and guided imagery; and 3.28 when given standard treatment, reflexology and acupuncture.

Guided imagery that was not individually administered had less of an effect.

Although there are few science- based studies of complementary medicine, this piece of research showed that it can be beneficial, the researchers concluded.

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