Randomized trial of essential oils to reduce perioperative patient anxiety: feasibility study


L. Stirling:
e-mail: l.stirling@napier.ac.uk


Title. Randomized trial of essential oils to reduce perioperative patient anxiety: feasibility study

Aim.  This paper is a report of a feasibility study to examine the effectiveness of essential oils in reducing anxiety in thoracic patients awaiting the results of investigative and staging surgery.

Background.  Patient anxiety is expected during the perioperative period. Anxiety places the patient at greater risk of adverse clinical outcomes. Nurses are limited in therapeutic options that can be used to address anxiety in the limited time available. Complementary therapies have been tested for therapeutic benefit but the evidence is weak.

Method.  Patients admitted to a thoracic unit for bronchoscopy/mediastinoscopy in 2005 and 2006 were invited to participate in this double-blind controlled trial and randomized to receive study oil (A), neutral oil (B) or no intervention (C). Intervention was controlled by the patient at home after the procedure. The State Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were used to measure baseline and periodic anxiety status (days 3, 21).

Findings.  Of the 142 patients approached to participate, 71 (50%) agreed to take part. There were high and fluctuating levels of perioperative anxiety in the thoracic patient group, but no evidence that this was reduced by the absorption and inhalation of essential oils.

Conclusion.  The study did not provide evidence that the essential oils could reduce anxiety in this group of patients. Both recruitment rates and compliance rates were lower than anticipated. Logistic factors in the setting of diagnostic process for an acute condition may have contributed to these results. More stable settings would be better suited to evaluating such interventions.