Complementary Alternative Medical Therapies for Heart Surgery Patients: Feasibility, Safety, and Impact


The Annals of Thoracic Surgery




BACKGROUND: Complementary therapies (touch, music) are used as successful adjuncts in treatment of pain in chronic conditions. Little is known about their effectiveness in care of heart surgery patients. Our objective is to evaluate feasibility, safety, and impact of a complementary alternative medical therapies package for heart surgery patients. METHODS: One hundred four patients undergoing open heart surgery were prospectively randomized to receive either complementary therapy (preoperative guided imagery training with gentle touch or light massage and postoperative music with gentle touch or light massage and guided imagery) or standard care. Heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and pain and tension were measured preoperatively and as pre-tests and post-tests during the postoperative period. Complications were abstracted from the hospital record. RESULTS: Virtually all patients in the complementary therapy group (95%) and 86% in standard care completed the study. Heart rate and blood pressure patterns were similar. Decreases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure in the complementary therapies group were judged within the range of normal values. Complication rates were very low and occurred with similar frequency in both groups. Pretreatment and posttreatment pain and tension scores decreased significantly in the complementary alternative medical therapies group on postoperative days 1 (p < 0.01) and 2 (p < 0.038). CONCLUSIONS: The complementary medical therapies protocol was implemented with ease in a busy critical care setting and was acceptable to the vast majority of patients studied. Complementary medical therapy was not associated with safety concerns and appeared to reduce pain and tension during early recovery from open heart surgery.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Blood Pressure; Cardiac Surgery; Heart Rate; Hospital Setting; Hospitalized Patients; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Music in Combination with Other Techniques; Pain; Pain Management and Control; Pain Score or Rating; Postoperative Pain; Postoperative Patients; Recorded Music Listening; Self-Report Measures; Surgery; Surgical Patients; Tension; Vital signs

Indexed Terms

Elderly; Analgesics; Cardiac Surgical Procedures; Combined Modality Therapy; Diastole; Feasibility Studies; Follow-Up Studies; Heart Rate; Imagery (Psychotherapy); Massage; Pain Measurement; Postoperative Pain; Patient Satisfaction; Postoperative Complications; Professional-Patient Relations; Relaxation Therapy; Stress; Systole

Study Type

Randomized Controlled Trial; Quantitative Methods

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