Talking to a nurse, watching a DVD or using a stress ball can help patients to relax during varicose vein surgery and reduce their pain, according to UK researchers.
Being conscious during an operation can make patients feel anxious and is often painful. However, research by Surrey University has found that simple distraction techniques can make a difference.
It is the first study to examine the effect of simple distraction techniques on patients undergoing varicose vein surgery.
The research, published in the European Journal of Pain, analysed 398 patients who were split into four groups.
The first group was played music during their surgery, while the second was offered a choice of DVD to watch from a wall-mounted monitor.
“Our research has found a simple and inexpensive way to improve patients’ experiences of this common and unpleasant procedure”
In the third group, a dedicated nurse was positioned next to the patient’s head to interact with them throughout the procedure. The nurse was instructed not to touch the patient’s hand during surgery, but to try and engage them in conversation.
In the fourth group, two palm-sized stress balls were given to participants once they were comfortably in place on the operating table. They were instructed to squeeze these whenever they were feeling anxious or if they anticipated or experienced any uncomfortable sensations.
The group that interacted with a nurse showed 30% less anxiety and 16% less pain than those who received treatment as usual, according to the researchers.
The group using stress balls showed 18% less anxiety and 22% less pain, while those that watched a DVD showed 25% less anxiety, but no differences for pain. Music did not have any effect on either.
The researchers focused on varicose vein surgery because some patients had previously reported experiencing a burning sensation, unfamiliar smells, sounds and feelings, as well as overhearing conversations between clinicians containing upsetting details about the procedure.
Study author Professor Jane Ogden said: “The use of simple distraction techniques can significantly improve patient experience.
“Our research has found a simple and inexpensive way to improve patients’ experiences of this common and unpleasant procedure, and could be used for a wide range of other operations carried out without a general anesthetic,” she said.
“This could also include the great number of exploratory procedures, such as colonoscopies and hysteroscopies, which are all done while patients are conscious,” she added.
The 398 patients were recruited from The Whiteley Clinic in Guildford, which is a private medical facility specialising in the treatment of varicose veins and other venous conditions.