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The Use of Guided Imagery to Manage Pain in an Elderly Orthopaedic Population

Antall, Gloria F.; Kresevic, Denise

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BACKGROUND: The management of postoperative pain in elderly orthopaedic patients is critical for advancing patient outcomes and improving the use of healthcare resources. Adequate pain control without adverse side effects, such as confusion and sedation, is crucial to promote comfort and participation in rehabilitation therapies among all patients but particularly among elderly joint replacement patients. Without adequate pain control, physical therapy is delayed and the risk of complications increases. One area of investigation that holds promise for improved treatment outcomes involves the use of complementary therapies, such as guided imagery.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this pilot study was to test the effects of a guided imagery intervention in the older adult patient who has undergone joint replacement surgery.

SAMPLE AND METHODS: This pilot study used a two-group experimental repeated measures design. A sample of 13 patients, age 55 years and older, were recruited. The control group received usual care and a music audio tape. The experimental group received usual care and a guided imagery audio tape intervention.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION: Trends in this pilot study demonstrated positive outcomes for pain relief, decreased anxiety, and decreased length of stay. Complementary therapy holds the promise of increasing positive outcomes. Further research is needed to validate these findings with a larger postoperative sample and in other populations as well.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: There is a critical need to incorporate the use of guided imagery and other complementary therapies into all nursing curricula. Nurses must develop expertise and be ready and able to act as patient educators and advocates in the use of these interventions in programs of care and institutional policy.

Gloria F. Antall, ND, APRN BC, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Shaker Heights, OH.

Denise Kresevic, PhD, APRN BC, Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans’ Medical Center, Sagamore Hills, and Clinical Nurse Specialist, University Hospital of Cleveland, OH.

© 2004 National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses