Current evidence for the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for children undergoing medical procedures

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Department or Administrative Unit

Family and Consumer Sciences

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Because more than three million children are hospitalized every year in the United States, psychosocial and emotional impacts of hospitalization on children cannot be overlooked. As such, a variety of psychosocial support services are offered in pediatric facilities to reduce the negative effects often associated with hospitalization. This review examines current evidence for the effectiveness of common psychosocial interventions for children and youth undergoing medical procedures.


A total of 34 studies that met selection guidelines, as outlined in Section 2, were included and coded based on study characteristics, intervention type, and study outcomes.


Findings from this literature review indicate that most studies examining the efficacy of psychosocial interventions reported at least positive outcomes for children. Although the review highlighted an overall pattern for improved outcomes following psychosocial intervention, there were some differences in outcomes based on type of intervention. In general, procedural support, preparation, and coping strategies were associated with reduced child anxiety/fear and distress. Procedural support was commonly associated with reduced pain, although many types of interventions demonstrated reduction in child pain. Procedural support was associated with improved procedural success.


This systematic review illustrates the benefits of offering psychosocial interventions, such as procedural support, preparation, teaching coping strategies, and medical play, that support children undergoing medical procedures. There is a need for additional studies that examine psychosocial interventions, including studies that examine long-term outcomes post-procedure or hospitalization. Furthermore, more studies need to collect cost-analysis information specific to the use of psychosocial interventions.


This article was originally published in Child: Care, Health and Development. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Child: Care, Health and Development


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