Older women's experiences with sternotomy

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While incision and subsequent scarring is a feature of all surgery, in cardiac surgery the sternotomy incision is significant and central to the body, separating the chest in half between the breasts. Increasingly older women count for a larger proportion of patients undergoing cardiac surgery each year in Australia yet there has been limited exploration of their experiences with sternotomy. A phenomenological approach was used to elicit the experiences of older women who had undergone cardiac surgery. In-depth interviews with four older women revealed a range of ways in which these women were affected by their sternotomy and their whole experience of cardiac surgery. Findings from this project provide insight into practical issues affecting these women and may assist nurses in the assessment and planning of care and education for older women having cardiac surgery, particularly in the areas of preparation for cardiac surgery and body image.

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