Title: Anxiety related to dental general anaesthesia: changes in anxiety in children and their parents
Abstract: Aim To examine the anxiety levels of children referred for dental general anaesthesia and their parents at various key points of the referral and anaesthetic procedure. Methods Structured interviews and anxiety measures were conducted with 50 children attending the Department of Paediatric Dentistry, Leeds Dental Institute, and progressing to general anaesthetic (GA) and their parents. Interviews were conducted with parents and children prior to initial assessment, following assessment and prior to a GA. Anxiety was measured at each interview, using the Visual Analogue Scale for parents and the Venham’s Picture test for children. A fourth telephone interview was conducted with parents one week after the GA when the degree of upset caused to parents and children by the procedure was evaluated. Results Anxiety of children remained constant at each interview. Parent and child anxiety were not related. There was a rise in parent anxiety following initial assessment in those families attending in response to a routine referral and progressing to GA (p<0.05). There was a further rise in parent anxiety in these families immediately prior to the GA itself (p<0.001). Parent upset was strongly related to their anxiety at each of the three interviews prior to the GA (p<0.01, 0.05 and 0.001 respectively) and to the distress of their child (p<0.02). Child distress was strongly related to anxiety at each of the three interviews prior to the GA. Conclusion The anxiety levels of children did not appear to change throughout the whole GA assessment and treatment process. Parent anxiety rose significantly following assessment and again just prior to the GA. Factors contributing to parent upset post treatment were child upset and pre treatment parent anxiety levels. Children who were most anxious prior to GA found the procedure most distressing.