Patterns of Psychosocial Adjustment Following Cardiac Surgery

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PURPOSEThe purpose of this research was to document the postoperative experiences of a group of cardiac surgery patients with a view to identifying factors relevant to postsurgical mood and adjustment.METHODSForty-six cardiac surgery patients (mean age = 63.6 years, SD = 11.0) were recruited through a cardiac rehabilitation program at a large teaching hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. A semistructured interview (Austin CEP Interview) was used to canvass a broad range of postsurgical issues, and 3 mood questionnaires were administered to provide a quantitative assessment of mood at the time of interview.RESULTSThree distinct patterns of adjustment and outcome following cardiac surgery were identified and described: “new well me,” “new sick me,” and “me as always.” Undergoing major cardiac surgery per se did not predict mood and adjustment difficulties, whereas the presence of chronic and disabling cardiac symptoms prior to surgery did. Adjustment issues primarily manifested as the extent of change in a patient's identity relating to health and illness perceptions, with age acting as a predictor of the type of adjustment difficulties experienced.CONCLUSIONThis study highlights the significance of psychosocial factors for assessing surgical outcomes and the importance of tailoring rehabilitation programs to the specific needs of individual patients.

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