Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention Effects on Adolescents’ Anxiety and Pain Following Spinal Fusion Surgery

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Cognitive-behavioral interventions, typically effective in reducing anxiety and pain, have not been applied to adolescents undergoing major orthopaedic surgery.


To determine the effectiveness of three cognitive-behavioral interventions for reducing adolescents’ postoperative anxiety and pain following spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis, and whether effectiveness depended on preoperative anxiety and age.


A randomized controlled trial with four groups receiving a videotape intervention (information only, coping only, information plus coping, or control) used a convenience sample of 109 adolescents (88 female, 93 White), 11–18 years of age (M = 14). Speilberger’s (1983) State Anxiety scale assessed anxiety preoperatively and postoperatively on Day 2. A visual analogue scale assessed pain postoperatively on Days 2 and 4.


Information plus coping was most effective for reducing postoperative anxiety in adolescents with high preoperative anxiety. Coping instruction led to less postoperative anxiety and pain for adolescents ages 13 and younger. The control group reported the highest levels of pain on Day 4.


Cognitive-behavioral interventions designed to prepare adolescents for surgery should be tailored to individual factors and developmental needs, especially the adolescents’ preoperative anxiety level and age.

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