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Research group

Stress, wound healing, and recovery from surgery

In recent years, a number of studies have shown that psychological stress slows down wound healing and impairs recovery from surgery (Liu, Skelly & Weinman, 1994). There is also strong evidence that pre-operative psychological interventions can have significant positive effects on different components of post-operative recovery (Weinman & Johnston, 1988). More recently we have also shown that patients’ expectations can have clear effects on the recovery from minor surgical procedures (McCarthy, Lyons & Weinman, 2003).

Together with colleagues in anatomy and medical imaging, we have published two laboratory studies demonstrating a very clear relation between life stress, other psychological variables and speed of healing of small biopsy wounds, as measured very accurately by ultrasound imaging (Ebrecht at al ,2004; Dyson et al 2003). Following this, we have recently evaluated the efficacy of a stress reduction intervention in speeding up the healing of small biopsy wounds (Weinman et al, submitted) and are now assessing the influence of stress and other behavioural factors on the healing of post-operative wounds in patients who have undergone knee arthroscopy.

In November 2005, a new MRC studentship will commence and this will investigate the role of psychological stress and related behavioural factors in the healing of venous leg ulcers, and the nature of a range of mediating processes. The MRC scholar will be based in the Health psychology section but will be working together with the MRC Health Services Research collaborative in Bristol (Dr. Kavita Vedhara) and the Dermatology department at Kings College Hospital (Dr. Elizabeth Higgins)


Dyson, M., Moodley, S., Verjee, L., Verling, W., Weinman, J. & Wilson, P. (2003) Wound healing using 20MHz ultrasound and photography. Skin Research & Technology, 9, 116-121.

  • Ebrecht, M., Weinman, J., Hextall, J., Kirtley, L., Taylor, A. & Dyson, M.(2004) Perceived stress and cortisol levels predict speed of wound healing in healthy male adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29, 798-809.
  • Liu, R., Skelly M. & Weinman, J. (1994) Effects of background stress and anxiety on postoperative recovery: Anaesthesia, 49, 382-386.
  • McCarthy, S.C., Lyons, A.C., Weinman, J. & Purnell, D. (2003) Do expectations influence recovery from oral surgery? An illness representation approach. Psychology & Health, 18,1, 109-126.
  • Weinman, J. & Johnston, M. (1988) Stressful medical procedures: an analysis of the effects of psychological interventions and of the stressfulness of the procedures. In Maes, S Defares, P Sarason, I G & Spielberger, C (eds) Topics in Health Psychology London : J Wiley, pp. 205-217.


Supporting Research
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