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Psychologist develops post-operative care for heart patients in Bermuda

LIVERPOOL, UK 31 March 2008: A psychologist at the University of Liverpool is helping to create a potentially life-saving post-operative care service for heart patients in Bermuda.

The service, being developed in conjunction with the Bermuda Heart Foundation, will help support patients who have been fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). ICDs are used to treat irregular heart beats, which can lead to heart attacks. If the heart rhythm increases in speed the ICD delivers low-voltage electrical impulses to the heart in an attempt to correct the rhythm.

Health care services in Bermuda are unable to offer the implants so patients are referred to Baltimore and other cities in the US where the ICD can be fitted. Patients returning to Bermuda after surgery have no post-operative care available to support them with any emotional or physical effects.

Dr Everard Thornton, from the Universitys School of Psychology, said: ICDs are usually implanted in patients who have suffered a number of serious heart problems, but are now available in some areas to those who have not yet had a heart attack but who are deemed high-risk.

This treatment can often be lifesaving but the psychological effects of the implant on the patient can be wide-ranging in both symptom and severity. Initial fears of the surgery, what patients can and cant do following the operation, and fears about the physical effects of the implant delivering a shock - which can result in unconsciousness and cause incontinence - can all impact on the patients well-being.

Some 16 per cent of patients will develop agoraphobia in the months following the operation, affecting quality of life. Poor knowledge and misconceptions about living with an ICD can lead to unnecessary worry, and for this reason it is vital that after-care is available.

He added: Patients in Bermuda, once leaving the hospital, have no access to support and so their fears begin to prevent them from living full lives. With funding from the Bermuda Heart Foundation, an aftercare service for all Bermuda residents who have had an ICD implanted can now be set up. In the future this rehabilitation service may be extended to patients with other acute cardiac conditions.


Contact: Laura Johnson
University of Liverpool

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