From the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy (Salzmann, Euteneuer, Laferton, Auer, Rief), Philipps University of Marburg; Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy (Laferton), Psychologische Hochschule Berlin; Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy (Shedden-Mora), University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf; Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology (Schedlowski), University Clinic Essen, Essen; and Clinic for Cardiac and Thoracic Vessel Surgery (Moosdorf), Heart Center, Philipps University of Marburg, Germany.
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ObjectiveThe aim of the study was to examine whether preoperative psychological interventions targeting patients' expectations are capable of influencing the biological stress response after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and could thus improve recovery after heart surgery.MethodsRandomized controlled trial with assessments 10 days before surgery, after psychological intervention (day of hospital admission, but before surgery), postoperative (6–8 days later), and at follow-up (6 months after surgery). Eligible patients (N = 124) scheduled for elective on-pump CABG or CABG with valve replacement surgery were approached before hospital admission. Standard medical care (SMC) was compared with two additional preoperative psychological interventions: (a) an expectation manipulation intervention to optimize patients' expectations about course and outcomes or (b) supportive therapy, containing the same amount of therapeutic attention, but without specifically focusing on expectations. Postoperative plasma adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol levels were a secondary outcome of our study (primary outcome patients' disability 6 months after surgery and other secondary patient-reported or clinical outcomes were reported elsewhere).ResultsExpectation manipulation intervention (3.68 ln pg/mL, 95% confidence interval = 3.38–3.98, p = .015) and supportive therapy (3.70 ln pg/mL, 95% confidence interval = 3.38–4.01, p = .026) led to significantly lower postoperative adrenaline levels compared with SMC (4.26 ln pg/mL, 95% confidence interval = 3.99–4.53) only. There were no treatment effects of the preoperative intervention for noradrenaline (p = .90) or cortisol (p = .30). Higher postoperative adrenaline levels predicted disability 6 months after surgery (r = .258, p = .018).ConclusionsIn addition to SMC, preoperative psychological interventions seem to buffer psychobiological stress responses and could thus facilitate recovery from CABG surgery. Patients' postoperative stress responses could be an important factor for explaining trajectories of long-term outcomes.Clinical Trial Registrationwww.clinicaltrials.gov(NCT01407055).