Clowns May Help Children Relax Before Surgery

Visit From a Clown Eases Children's Pre-Surgery Anxiety

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 03, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 3, 2005 -- Laughter may be the best medicine for children about to undergo surgery.

A new study suggests that a visit from a clown can ease tension and relieve anxiety among children waiting to have minor surgery -- a feat that could help reduce the risk of complications down the road.

Italian researchers found children who had a clown that stayed in the room with them along with a parent while they received anesthesia were significantly less anxious than those who had just a parent and medical staff present until they fell asleep.

Clowns Fight Surgery Anxiety

Researchers say about 60% of children suffer from anxiety before surgery, including feelings of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry that are usually related to the child's fear of separation from home and unfamiliar hospital routines and instruments.

High levels of this type of pre-surgery anxiety have been linked to a higher risk of complications following surgery in children.

In the study, researchers compared pre-surgery anxiety levels in 40 children aged 5 to 12 who were about to have minor surgery. Half of the children had a clown present along with a parent while waiting for surgery and during the delivery of anesthesia. The other half had only a parent and medical staff present.

The results showed that the children who had a clown present until they fell asleep experienced significantly less pre-surgery anxiety.

For example, researchers found that anxiety levels rose as the children who had only a parent with them moved from the waiting room to the anesthesia delivery area. But anxiety levels didn't change among children who had a clown present.

The results of the study appear in Pediatrics.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Vagnoli, L. Pediatrics, October 2005; vol 116: pp e563-e567. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.
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