By Rosie Wilson

A study conducted into the necessity and safety of the use of sedatives prior to surgery has shown that using sedatives may not improve the patient’s experience, and may even cause more harm than good.

Benzodiazepines are often used preoperatively to reduce a patient’s stress, but the study published in JAMA note that the drugs have been associated with a number of side-effects, including drowsiness, insomnia and cognitive impairment. They also note that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the use of sedatives prior to surgery enhances patient experience.

The researchers enrolled 1,062 patients under the age of 70 who were due to undergo various surgeries and randomly assigned them to one of three groups: no pre-medication, a placebo, or pre-medication with 2.5mg of lorazepam (a type of benzodiazepine). Patient’s cognitive function was assessed 40 minutes after surgery, and their preoperative experience was gauged with a questionnaire completed 24 hours after surgery. Research showed patients who received anti-anxiety medication experienced no improvement in patient satisfaction.

Dr. Axel Maurice-Szamburksi of the Hopital de la Timone Adulte in Marseille, France and one of the researchers, said:

“Before antianxiety treatment is administered, patients should be provided the best information about its efficacy. More needs to be known about the efficacy of preoperative anxiety treatment to better counsel patients to make informed decisions.”