Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Endoscopic Procedures: Identifying People at Risk

Research Article

Ann Depress Anxiety. 2016; 3(1): 1072.

Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Endoscopic Procedures: Identifying People at Risk

Previti G, Bianchini O, Dipasquale S, Virzi A, Petralia A, Aguglia E and Signorelli MS*

Department of Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine, University of Catania, Italy

*Corresponding author: Maria Salvina Signorelli, Department of Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine, University of Catania, Italy

Received: January 21, 2016; Accepted: March 10, 2016; Published: March 14, 2016


Background: Endoscopic examination, like colonoscopy and Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGDS), can have adverse psychological effects like anxiety. It is known that any examination can cause anxiety and worry, sometimes so much as to avoid the exam itself, and it is known that anxiety for one’s own health can lead to continual recourse to the doctor and diagnostic examinations.

Goals: To assess the impact of endoscopic examination on anxiety levels of patients, and look for associations between levels of state and trait anxiety and different variables, in order to identify people most at risk of developing complications.

Study: We recruited 400 patients waiting to undergo endoscopic examination. Anxiety levels were obtained after administration of the test State- Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI S and T form) for the evaluation of trait and state anxiety.

Results: Patients who undergo an invasive examination have higher anxiety levels than the general population, especially women and those who perform EGDS. The highest levels of anxiety can be seen in patients who undergo the examination in the presence of a specific symptom, rather than as a screening.

Conclusion: Endoscopic examinations cause a significant increase of anxiety. Moreover, the analysis of the different variables considered, suggests a typology of patients most at risk in the performance of the procedures. This will allow greater selectivity of preventive interventions for patients with an anxiety disorder. Also, the doctor should do a careful assessment of the patient before requiring an endoscopic examination, to determine if they belong to those subgroups most at risk for anxiety disorders and complications.

Keywords: Anxiety; Endoscopic examination; Colonoscopy; EGDS


Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGDS) and colonoscopy are frequently used to diagnose and treat many gastrointestinal diseases. However, these procedures may cause some difficulty for patients such as pain, tachycardia, and, in some cases, even a temporary desaturation [1,2]. All these difficulties may have a significant psychological impaction the patient and may cause an increase in anxiety levels [3-5].

The possibility of preventing or alleviating anxiety during the endoscopic examination is important, not only for the discomfort in itself, but also because the anxiety may prolong the time of examination and increase the likelihood of side effects [6]. In addition, high levels of anxiety in patients with gastrointestinal disorders may cause a refusal to accept medical care and result in a real phobia of examinations [7,8].

It was found that patients undergoing EGDS had significantly higher anxiety levels (34%) and used psychiatric drugs more frequently than those who underwent colonoscopy [9].

Moreover, some studies [10-15] reported that patients who participate in screening programs, such as colonoscopy, have high levels of anxiety. For some people simply receiving an invitation to participate in a screening test that involves EGDS or colonoscopy can induce anxiety [16].

Many risk factors have been associated with high levels of anxiety [9-18]. Jones et al. identified different variables related to low levels of anxiety: male gender, having already performed endoscopic examinations, low education, low income and advanced age [17]. Miles [19] focuses on patients with a family history of gastrointestinal cancers. If family occurrence is low or intermediate patients often are not very disposed to do tests because they feel good and they are afraid of being “sick”. Instead, those who have a strong family history, for example having a first-degree relative with a gastrointestinal cancer, are more inclined to do the screening exams [19].

Wardle confirmed that relatives of cancer patients have higher anxiety levels than controls when they have to do screening exams, which means that, on one hand they should do periodic and preventive instrumental investigations, on the other hand and their high anxiety levels may lead to avoidance of the examination [20].

All these studies highlight the importance of the psychological reactions that an invasive examination such as the colonoscopy or EGDS may cause and try to identify factors associated with higher levels of anxiety to predict and avoid negative events for the patient.

Different approaches can be used to reduce anxiety during the endoscopy, ranging from the use of information material to relaxation techniques [21,22].

From these findings it’s important to investigate the impact of endoscopic exams on the patients and help clinicians to better identify patients at risk of having complications.

The aims of this study were to assess the impact of endoscopic examination on anxiety levels of patients and looking for associations between levels of state and trait anxiety and different variables, such as gender, different symptoms presented, demographic data, medical history and the type and number of exams performed, in order to identify people most at risk to develop complications.

Materials and Methods


We recruited outpatients consecutively admitted to the ambulatory endoscopic surgery unit at the University Hospital “Policlinico-Vittorio Emanuele” of Catania. Patients were interviewed immediately before the start of EGDS or colonoscopy procedures.

Inclusion criteria: Men and women aged between 18 and 75 years inclusive, no current or lifetime history of psychiatric disorder.

Exclusion criteria: Unable to communicate in Italian, taking antianxiety drugs in the last 72 hours, dementia, any history of psychiatric disorders, examination performed in emergency, previous endoscopy with conscious sedation.

All patients recruited were informed about the aim of the study by one of the investigators and then they provided written informed consent for participation in the study. The study protocol was approved by the ethical board of the University Hospital “Policlinico- Vittorio Emanuele” of Catania.

Assessment tools

Patients were given, by one of the investigators, a questionnaire on demographic data, family history, use of psychotropic drugs, performance of previous endoscopies, there a son why the examination was performed: specific symptoms, screening, follow - up. The history of psychiatric disorder was evaluated with the Mini- International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.) [23].

In addition, the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI S and T) [24], were used to evaluate, respectively, state and trait anxiety. These tests began to be developed around 1964 and were initially designed as a single instrument to measure both anxiety trait and anxiety status. Through the years, the difficulties encountered in measuring the two types of anxiety in a single test, led to the development of two tests, one for each type of anxiety. This led to the two sub-scales STAIT-Anxiety Scale (Form X-2) and STAIS-Anxiety Scale (Form X-1). The two sub-scales are each composed of 20items, of which only 5 meet the criteria of validity for both. The items are valued based on a 4-point scale (1 to 4) corresponding to the “Form X-1”, to: Not at all, A little, somewhat and Very much, and, for the”X-2 Form” to: Hardly ever, Sometimes, Often and Almost always [25].

Statistical analysis

All statistical analyses were performed using the PASW Statistics 18 program. For the statistical analysis of data related to tests STAI-X1 and STAI-X2, which are parametric and have a Gaussian distribution, we used the t-test for unpaired data to determine if the differences in the various groups considered are significant or not.


A total of 415 outpatients were interviewed, of which 21 were excluded: 8 for taking anti-anxiety medication in the 72 hours before, 2 for not speaking Italian well, 5 for history of previous endoscopy with conscious sedation. 400 patients were enrolled, 191 males and 209 females. The mean age was53.9 (±14.7) years of the 400 endoscopic examinations performed, 253 (63.3%) were colonoscopies and147 (36.7%) EGDs.

The mean values of the tests obtained are 46.3±11.9 for the STAI-X1 and 39.9±10.7 for the STAI-X2, indicating positivity for the state anxiety and values at the upper limits of normality for the trait anxiety (Table 1).