Special Beano comic strip created to manage pre-operative anxiety in children

A special, online Beano comic strip, developed in partnership with the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, will 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. 

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?

Dennis has an anaesthetic is an ideal resource for NHS Trusts to use in patient information on their websites and in preoperative assessment clinics. 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.

Around 500,000 children in the UK undergo surgery requiring a general anaesthetic each year. Research shows that 75% of children experience anxiety in the anaesthetic room, which is distressing for them and poses a significant clinical problem.

Children who are particularly anxious may require more anaesthetic, experience increased pain perception and have higher levels of nausea and vomiting. Sixty percent will exhibit behavioural disturbance in the weeks following their operation, such as tantrums, generalised anxiety and school refusal. 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.  

Using resources like Dennis has an anaesthetic helps address these problems by alleviating children’s anxiety – enabling them 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. It is the ideal tool for alleviating anxiety in paediatric patients and helping NHS trusts embed the principles of perioperative care. 

Dr Samantha Black, Consultant Paediatric and Perioperative Anaesthetist at Medway NHS Foundation Trust and Patient Information Lead at the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“As a paediatric anaesthetist I know from first-hand experience how anxious children can be about having an anaesthetic and how that can impact on how they prepare for, and recover from, their operation. Dennis has an anaesthetic is a fantastic resource that can be used in preoperative assessment clinics and at home with parents to answer children’s questions and to reassure them.

“It is really important for children to be involved in the decision-making process and to have the opportunity to use the time in the run-up to their operation to make positive changes such as eating and sleeping well, and doing some exercise.”

Dr Karen Bartholomew, Patient Information Lead for the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of GBI and Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust said:

We are delighted to add Dennis has an anaesthetic to the range of information resources we share with the Royal College of Anaesthetists. We hope that children, their families and carers will enjoy and benefit from this resource and find the whole experience of the surgical and anaesthesia pathway more familiar and more fun.”

Dennis has an anaesthetic is a Beano Studios Product ©DC Thomson (2022).

Read our comic strip, Dennis has an anaesthetic