By: 27 December 2022
Special Beano comic strip launched to manage preoperative anxiety in children

Dr Sam BlackRCoA Patient Information Lead and Chair of the RCoA Patient Information Group shares valuable addition to the patient resources for younger patients

The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (APAGBI) have launched a special, online Beano comic strip to help children who need to have an operation understand what it’s like to have a general anaesthetic and help reduce their anxiety about surgery.

The comic strip – Dennis has an anaesthetic – is available to download from the RCoA and APAGBI websites. It is the ideal resource for use in preoperative assessment clinics and patient information sections of NHS Trust websites. It is a free, accessible, and easily shared resource that adds an element of play to help clinicians and parents/carers manage pre-operative anxiety in children and prepare them for their operation.

Dennis has an anaesthetic takes children aged 7–11 on a fun-filled journey with Dennis as he prepares to have his tonsils removed, from diagnosis to discharge from hospital. By accompanying Dennis on this journey, children will have their own questions answered, including:

  • what is a general anaesthetic and is it safe?
  • how will I feel when I wake up?
  • how can I prepare for my operation?
  • what should I do if I am worried or have questions?

I know you will be familiar with the problems posed by anxiety in paediatric patients, such as increased anaesthetic requirement, pain perception and side effects. High levels of anxiety in children are also linked to prolonged recovery times, which in turn can have a negative impact on the number of procedures surgical teams can undertake each day. The effects of anxiety can be long-lasting, with some children exhibiting behavioural problems in the post operative period, such as tantrums, generalised anxiety and school refusal.

That’s why resources like Dennis has an anaesthetic are so important – anything we can do to alleviate anxiety has clinical benefits as well as helping children to feel safe and reassured.

The comic strip also helps parents and children understand the importance of taking positive steps to prepare for an operation, including getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet and taking appropriate exercise. In that way, it is an age-appropriate way to help embed the principles of perioperative care.