Medical clowns can reduce anxiety and length of hospital stay for children undergoing urologic surgery, according to a new study featured at the 110th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

Medical research has found humor can have a positive effect on patients and implementation of medical clowns, particularly in pediatric settings, has become an integral and therapeutic component of care in many hospitals throughout the world. Dozens of hospital clown guilds have formed in the U.S., Canada and Europe over the last few decades, drawing inspiration from a 1998 movie hit starring Robin Williams as real-life hospital clown Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams, as well as from New York's Big Apple Circus, which pioneered the first professional hospital clowning program.

Appreciating this, researchers from Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, sought to evaluate the influence medical clowns have on reducing preoperative anxiety, postoperative pain and medical costs for children ages 2-16 undergoing outpatient urologic surgery.

Study Details

Children undergoing outpatient urologic surgery were divided into two groups. Both utilized an identical clinical setup. In the first group, the medical clown was an integral part of the medical team; however in the second group, the treatment was given without participation of the medical clown. The study found the majority (96 percent) of healthcare professionals, agreed with the presence of clowns in the operating room, considering them useful for children (96 percent), for parents (89 percent) and for themselves (78 percent). Additionally, the overall operating room time and postoperative unit care savings led to the cost savings of more than $461.

Further results showed:

  • Children with medical clown influence demonstrated less anxiety prior to and after surgery, compared to those without;
  • Use of medical clowns resulted in less induction time for anesthesia, less overall time in the operating room, and less time to recover from surgery and to be discharged; and
  • Pain scores, pain rescue following surgery and the time needed to return to normal activities were only slightly lower for children with medical clown influence, and not statistically significant.

"For years, medical clowns have played a comforting role for not only patients but also for their families and physicians," said Dr. Atala. "These data clearly demonstrate the unique role medical clowns play in reducing anxiety among children in an outpatient surgery setting as well as the amount of time spent in the hospital, which subsequently may lead to lower hospital costs."