Handholding reduces stress in cataract surgery

Many of my patients are worried about having cataract surgery. Their main concerns tend to be about how the surgery will take place, whether the procedure will hurt and what if things go wrong. I have already discussed whether cataract surgery is painful in one of my recent videos:

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I came across a rather interesting paper the other day on the effects of handholding during cataract surgery – it was particularly interesting to me as I often use this technique in the operating room to help my nervous patients.

The paper was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and its primary aim was to investigate what the actual effects of handholding were in patients undergoing cataract surgery and whether it had any actual impact on the levels of anxiety experienced by the patient.

The investigators took two groups of patients, of which 30 patients had someone’s hand to hold during their cataract surgery and another 32 patients who did not have a hand to hold. Both groups then had interviews about their anxiety levels plus measurements of their blood pressure and pulse rate. The investigators also took blood samples from each group to look at some physiological markers of anxiety which included levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, neutrophils, lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

The findings of the study showed there was a significant difference between the groups with the patients who had their hand held during cataract surgery showing lower levels of anxiety and lower levels of epinephrine (epinephrine is the hormone that is secreted by the adrenal gland in response to physical or mental stress).

Small studies like this are great to show patients as they highlight the benefits of simple, painless, non-medical techniques to reduce stress. This is especially useful during cataract surgery where the majority of my patients are awake with local anaesthesia.

Many of my past cataract patients have told me they really liked hand holding during their operation and if you are nervous about your private cataract surgery in London, we will be happy to hold your hand too.

The effects of handholding on anxiety in cataract surgery patients under local anaesthesia
Moon JS, Cho KS, J Adv Nurs. 2001 Aug; 35(3):407-15