A significant advance in the care of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery

Diane L. Tusek, James M. Church, Scott A. Strong, Jeffrey A. Grass, Victor W. Fazio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Guided imagery uses the power of thought to influence psychologic and physiologic states. Some studies have shown that guided imagery can decrease anxiety, analgesic requirements, and length of stay for surgical patients. This study was designed to determine whether guided imagery in the perioperative period could improve the outcome of colorectal surgery patients. METHODS: We conducted a prospective, randomized trial of patients undergoing their first elective colorectal surgery at a tertiary care center. Patients were randomly assigned into one of two groups. Group 1 received standard perioperative care, and Group 2 listened to a guided imagery tape three days preoperatively; a music-only tape during induction, during surgery, and postoperatively in the recovery room; a guided imagery tape during each of the first six postoperative days. Both groups had postoperative patient-controlled analgesia. All patients rated their levels of pain and anxiety daily, on a linear analog scale of 0 to 100. Total narcotic consumption, time to first bowel movement, length of stay, and number of patients with complications were also recorded. RESULTS: Groups were similar in age and gender distribution, diagnoses, and surgery performed. Median baseline anxiety score was 75 in both groups. Before surgery, anxiety increased in the control group but decreased in the guided imagery group (median change, 30; P < 0.001). Postoperatively, median increase in the worst pain score was 72.5 for the control group and 42.5 for the imagery group (P < 0.001). Least pain was also significantly different (P < 0.001), with a median increase of 30 for controls and 12.5 for the imagery group. Total opioid requirements were significantly lower in the imagery group, with a median of 185 mg vs. 326 mg in the control group (P < 0.001). Time to first bowel movement was significantly less in the imagery group (median, 58 hours) than in the control group (median, 92 hours; P < 0.001). The number of patients experiencing postoperative complications (nausea, vomiting, pruritus, or ileus) did not differ in the two groups. CONCLUSION: Guided imagery significantly reduces postoperative anxiety, pain, and narcotic requirements of colorectal surgery and increases patient satisfaction. Guided imagery is a simple and low-cost adjunct in the care of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-178
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997


  • Anxiety
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Imagery
  • Pain
  • Relaxation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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