Patients experience of chronic pain after cardiac surgery – a two year follow up : Patienters erfarenhet av kronisk smärta - en tvåårig uppföljning

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för omvårdnad; Umeå universitet/Institutionen för omvårdnad


Background and objective: Approximately 6000 cardiac surgeries were performed in Sweden 2013 and a known complication after such procedure is chronic pain. One surgical technique in open cardiac surgery includes a sternal retraction and this creates sensitive areas of pain which could lead to nerve damage. Few studies have been looking at this in a qualitative way. The aim of this study was to illuminate the  experiences of chronic pain in former patients, two years after cardiac surgery.

Methods: This study is of qualitative design. Four women and six men (age 43 to 87 years), assessed as having chronic pain after surgery, were interviewed two years after cardiac surgery. The data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis with an inductive approach.

Findings: Three categories and nine sub-categories were formulated. The first category was ‘feeling limitation in daily life’, with the subcategories; ‘everyday activities become painful’, ‘losing control of the body’, ‘pain is unpredictable’and‘insecurity’. The second category was;‘being reminded of illness’, with the subcategories; ‘the scar is a visually memory’and ‘being grateful’.The last category was; ‘coping with pain’, with the subcategories; ‘adaption for handling pain’, ‘different shades of pain’ and ‘pain is transient’.

Conclusion: Chronic pain is a personal experience and can be described in a both physical and emotional way. Findings showed that participants, in some way, almost daily were reminded about their experiences of cardiac surgery either by looking at their scar or that they were restricted in daily activities. Despite the limitation in life; could participants describe their experience of chronic pain as manageable.  Pain was described in several ways, and the participants had different coping strategies. Most of the participants also were assured that pain eventually would pass or get better. 

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