Use of animal-assisted interventions in relieving pain in healthcare settings: A systematic review

Meredith L. Stensland, Don D. McGeary

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background and objective: Therapeutic interaction with animals for patients coping with physical and mental health conditions is a growing interest among healthcare providers and researchers. We aimed to comprehensively summarize and evaluate the current state of evidence examining the use of animal-assisted interventions [AAI] for pain relief in healthcare settings. Design: Systematic review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis statement. Methods: Two researchers independently assessed publications dated before February 5, 2021 in OVID Medline, CINAHL, and PsychINFO databases, and used the Delphi list to evaluate the quality of the evidence. Results: Of the 109 studies screened, a total of 24 studies totaling 1,950 participants were ultimately included. Studies varied in design, including single group trials (8), controlled trials with at least two groups (6), and randomized controlled trials (10). The most common form of pain measurement was the visual or numeric rating scale. For the 18 studies that reported data on changes in pain severity from pre-to-post-test, 13 reported a significant reduction; using the converted common metric we created, these reductions ranged from 0.20 to 3.33 points on a 10-point numeric rating scale. Conclusions: AAI may be considered a promising approach in need of further, more rigorous research. Available evidence supporting AAI remains weak due to issues of study quality and design, thereby impeding our ability to draw reliable conclusions on the utility of AAI in relieving pain. Given the rapidly increasing availability of these interventions in hospitals, it is important to better understand its effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101519
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Volume46
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Animal-assisted interventions
  • Non-pharmacological
  • Pain
  • Pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

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