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Psychologist Develops a Post-Operative Care Program for Heart Patients

Posted Oct 03 2008 12:52pm

Here is an article that briefly discusses the role of a psychologist in developing a program designed to help patients with issues resulting from having a heart defibrillator surgically implanted.  According to the article, heart patients in Bermuda are unable to have the procedure completed there, so they come to the U.S.  However, upon return, there are no post-procedure care services in place to help with the physical or psychological issues that often crop up:

"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 can't 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 patient's well-being."

The authors note, for example, that approximately 16% of people who undergo this procedure will develop agoraphobia, which can seriously impair one's quality of life.  This program appears designed to be preventive in nature, and address these issues as they arise, rather than waiting until a difficulty is full blown.  I would like to note this is another example of the increasing role psychologists can (and will) play in the area of health psychology, as the significant interface between medical issues and mental health continues to be recognized and documented.  Some of my more recent posts, particularly the geriatric-themed posts, are all areas where mental health professionals can not only offer services that improve quality of life, but in fact directly impact people's medical status.

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