THE USE OF THE RELAXATION RESPONSE WITH SKIN CANCER PATIENTS (AMBULATORY SURGERY, PREOPERATIVE PREPARATION)
DOMAR, ALICE DIANE
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The efficacy of the relaxation-response technique in reducing surgical anxiety and pain in an ambulatory surgery setting was studied in patients awaiting surgery for the removal of a skin cancer. The two hypotheses of the study were as follows: (1) patients who regularly elicited the relaxation response prior to surgery would experience less anxiety before, during, and after surgery than control patients, and (2) patients who regularly elicited the relaxation response prior to surgery would experience less pain during surgery than control patients. Forty nine patients with skin cancer were enrolled into the study immediately after being told of the need for surgery; 28 were taught how to elicit the relaxation response and told to practice the technique for 20 minutes per day and 21 were instructed to read for 20 minutes per day. Twenty one of the experimental patients were compliant in their relaxation practice. Subjects were assigned to groups at random; they did not differ on any demographic characteristics. Physiological and psychological measures were collected at five points in time; Time 1 was anywhere from one week to three months before surgery and Time 5 was one week postoperative. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on any of the anxiety measures or the pain questionnaire except the experimental group had statistically lower respiratory rates immediately before and after surgery and received significantly more local anesthetic. There were statistically significant subjective differences between the two groups: the experimental patients stated that the technique had helped them several days prior to surgery and experienced their highest levels of anxiety prior to entering the study, while the controls experienced their worst anxiety during and after surgery. There is preliminary evidence to demonstrate that regular elicitation of the relaxation response can significantly lower anxiety several days prior to but not during surgery.