A recent survey shows that 85 percent of participating patients said they were anxious about receiving a general anesthetic. The report is published in the May issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Key concerns included dying while asleep, not waking up after surgery, waking up during surgery and anxiety while waiting to go into surgery or arriving at the OR door. “Our survey underlines the importance of patients receiving planned and timely information about anesthesia, prior to the day of surgery, in order to limit their anxiety,” says Dr Mark Mitchell, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of Salford, UK.

“This should include information about how anesthesia is managed, the notion of carefully controlled and supervised anesthesia and dispelling misconceptions associated with general anesthesia.” Patients were asked to indicate their anxiety levels about 24 different issues. This showed that:

  • The top three concerns were the thought of not waking up (26 percent), dying while asleep (25 percent) and waking up during surgery (20 percent).
  • 41 percent said that they didn't like the thought of having to put their trust in strangers.
  • 30 percent felt very calm about the anesthetist explaining the procedure, 28 percent about the anesthetist visiting and 17 percent about the nurse explaining the procedure.

“While patients need less physical nursing care, our survey shows that more attention needs to be paid to the psychological aspects of their care,” stated Dr. Mitchell. “The formal and timely provision of information about the planned surgery – together with a patient-centered approach to the provision of information, such as pre-assessment clinics – are vital first steps.”