Eighty-five per cent of patients who took part in a survey shortly after day surgery admitted to being anxious about receiving a general anaesthetic.

Seventeen per cent of respondents said they were very or extremely anxious, 22 per cent said they were quite anxious, 46 per cent said they were a little anxious and 15 per cent experienced no anxiety at all.

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 theatre door.

“Our survey underlines the importance of patients receiving planned and timely information about anaesthesia, prior to the day of surgery, in order to limit their anxiety,” said Mark Mitchell, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of Salford in Britain.

“This should include information about how anaesthesia is managed, the notion of carefully controlled and supervised anaesthesia and dispelling misconceptions associated with general anaesthesia.”

Patients scheduled for elective surgery in three day surgery units in England were invited to take part in the survey and 460 patients - a response rate of 37 per cent - completed the questionnaire within 24 to 48 hours of surgery.

The patients who took part were aged between 18 and 75, with an average age of 46, and 59 per cent were female.

The majority had undergone gynaecological, general, orthopaedic, urological and ear, nose and throat surgery.

Patients were asked to indicate their anxiety levels about 24 different issues. This showed that: The top three concerns that made patients very anxious were the thought of not waking up (26 per cent), dying while asleep (25 per cent) and waking up during surgery (20 per cent).

When the researchers combined all the patients who were anxious, the top five concerns were: waiting for their turn in theatre (59 per cent), the thought of arriving at the theatre door (56 per cent), dying while asleep or not waking up afterwards (both 48 per cent) and waking up during surgery (46 per cent).

Forty-one per cent said that they didn’t like the thought of having to put their trust in strangers and 12 per cent felt very anxious about this, said a University of Salford release.

Anxiety levels were lowest when it came to interactions with medical staff and the support of a partner or friend.

The findings were published in the May issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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