Recent data from researchers at the Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and Loyola University Health System shows that patients who have undergone total joint replacement surgery and receive animal-assisted therapy (AAT) may require less pain medication than those who do not experience this therapy. According to a Loyola University Health System news release, AAT has been used in a variety of healthcare settings to improve quality of life as well as social, physical, emotional, and/or cognitive health for patients.

The retrospective study measured the need for oral pain medication in patients who were exposed to animal-assisted therapy and those who were not, as indicated on the Loyola University news release. The groups were similar in gender, age, ethnicity, type of joint replacement, and length of stay. The AAT consisted of daily visits from specially trained dogs for an average of 5 to 15 minutes. The results of the study show that the need for oral pain medication was notably less (28%) in the ATT group (15.32 mg versus 21.16 mg).

Fran Vlasses, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, says, “This study offers interesting observations about the healing potential of animals. The efficacy of animal-assisted therapy in decreasing the need for pain medication and its effect on patient well-being after surgery deserves further study.”

Julia Harvey, MSN, RN, CCM, lead author of the study, states, “The animal-human connection is powerful in reducing stress and in generating a sense of well-being. This study further demonstrates the positive influence animals can have on human recovery.”

Source: Loyola University Health System