How Can Surgeonfish Help Pediatric Surgeons? A Pilot Study Investigating the Antinociceptive Effect of Fish Aquariums in Adult Volunteers
BACKGROUND: Multiple distraction strategies have been proposed to reduce the incidence of anxiety and pain in children. Animal-assisted therapy is acknowledged and used in children as an adjunctive treatment with cognitive, physical, psychosocial and spiritual benefits.OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of fish aquarium animal-assisted therapy (FA-AAT) on pain perception in a cohort of healthy volunteers.METHODS: Sixty-nine healthy subjects (mean age 27.3 years) were exposed to >20 different species of soft or hard corals and >25 fish in a 1000 L saltwater aquarium. Pain perception was assessed using an electrical stimulation device, the Pain Matcher (Cefar Medical AB, Sweden), after 5 min, 10 min, 20 min and 30 min of continuous aquarium viewing. The measurements were repeated 10 min after stopping aquarium viewing.RESULTS: A statistically significant pain perception threshold augmentation was observed after a 5 min aquarium viewing. This threshold augmentation was also increased after 10 min, 20 min and 30 min of FA-AAT. A remnant effect was noted up to 10 min after exposure. This short post-viewing time period could be useful in clinical practice to perform certain painful procedures in children, such as those involving needles, under improved conditions immediately after aquarium exposure.CONCLUSIONS: In the authors’ department, FA-AAT is now used as a nonpharmacological antinociceptive technique in association with a protocol of inhalated oxygen/nitrous oxide mixtures for needle-related procedures. Children and parents are invited to watch the aquarium during the 10 min to 20 min before venous punctures.