Preparing children for the operating room: psychological issues

Terry McGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Children respond psychologically to the prospect of surgery in a variable and age-dependent manner. This review summarizes the psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioural and family system models of child development. It then reviews studies of hospitalization and anaesthesia in children. These studies suggest that younger children, children previously anaesthetized, and children who experience turbulent anaesthetic inductions are at particular risk for postoperative behavioural disturbances. Strategies of dealing with children and their parents during the perioperative period are discussed. Such strategies include: allowing a parent to be present during induction of anaesthesia, administering sedative premedication, creating a supportive environment, educating children and parents (verbal descriptions, tours, books, videos), and establishing rapport with children and their parents. Age-specific techniques of establishing rapport with children are discussed. If children are less anxious during the perioperative period, not only will they often exhibit less behavioural disturbances postoperatively, but they may face subsequent medical care more easily.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1094-1103
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • anaesthesia: paediatric
  • psychological responses
  • surgery: paediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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