Up to 20% of patients do not show improvements in health-related quality of life (HRQL) after cardiac surgery, despite apparently successful surgical procedures. We sought to determine whether failed improvements in HRQL after cardiac surgery are associated with the development of traumatic memories and chronic stress states as a result of high perioperative stress exposure.
Prospective cohort study.
A 10-bed cardiovascular intensive care unit of a tertiary care university hospital.
A total of 148 cardiac surgical patients.
The patients were evaluated for traumatic memories from postoperative treatment in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (defined as the subjective recollection of pain, respiratory distress, anxiety/panic, and nightmares), symptoms of chronic stress, including those of posttraumatic stress disorder, and HRQL preoperatively (at baseline) and at 6 months after cardiac surgery. A state of chronic stress was defined as the development of posttraumatic stress disorder at 6 months after surgery. Factors predicting the decline in HRQL were determined by multivariable linear regression. Twenty-seven patients (18.2%) had posttraumatic stress disorder at 6 months after cardiac surgery; seven of these patients (4.8%) had evidence of preexisting posttraumatic stress disorder before undergoing cardiac surgery. Patients with new posttraumatic stress disorder at 6 months after cardiac surgery had a significantly higher number of traumatic memories from postoperative treatment in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (p = .01). A multiple regression model included the number of traumatic memories from the intensive care unit and stress symptom scores at 6 months after heart surgery as predictors for variations in physical HRQL outcome scores (R2 = .30, p < .04). Stress symptom scores were the most significant predictors of mental health HRQL outcomes (R2 = .52, p < .01).
Exposure to high stress in the cardiovascular intensive care unit can have negative effects on HRQL outcomes of cardiac surgery.
From the Departments of Anesthesiology (GS, MR), Psychiatry (HBR, HPK, TKS), and Cardiac Surgery (GN) and the Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology (MS), Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany; and the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, CA (BR).
Supported, in part, by grants from the Eli-Lilly International Foundation, Bad Homburg, and Hoffman-La Roche, Grenzach-Wyhlen.
Exposure to high stress in the cardiovascular intensive care unit can have negative effects on health-related quality-of-life outcomes of cardiac surgery.