Role of Anxiety in Young Children’s Pain Memory Development after Surgery

Shanaya Fischer, Jillian Vinall, Maria Pavlova, Susan Graham, Abbie Jordan, Jill Chorney, Nivez Rasic, James Brookes, Monika Hoy, Warren Yunker, Melanie Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (SciVal)
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Pediatric pain is common, and memory for it may be distressing and have long-lasting effects. Children who develop more negatively biased memories for pain (ie, recalled pain is higher than initial pain report) are at risk of worse future pain outcomes. In adolescent samples, higher child and parent catastrophic thinking about pain was associated with negatively biased memories for postsurgical pain. This study examined the influence of child and parent anxiety on the development of younger children's postsurgical pain memories. Seventy-eight children undergoing a tonsillectomy and one of their parents participated. Parents reported on their anxiety (state and trait) before surgery, and trained researchers observationally coded children's anxiety at anaesthesia induction. Children reported on their postsurgical pain intensity and pain-related fear for 3 days after discharge. One month after surgery, children recalled their pain intensity and pain-related fear using the same scales previously administered. Results revealed that higher levels of postsurgical pain and higher parent trait anxiety predicted more negatively biased memories for pain-related fear. Parent state anxiety and child preoperative anxiety were not associated with children's recall. Children who developed negatively biased pain memories had worse postsurgical pain several days after surgery. These findings underscore the importance of reducing parental anxiety and effective postsurgical pain management to potentially buffer against the development of negatively biased pain memories in young children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-972
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Acute pain
  • Anxiety
  • Children
  • Memory
  • Parents
  • Postsurgical pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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