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HSR&D 2004 National Meeting Abstracts

1013. Relaxation Response for CHF: A Qualitative Study in a Clinical Trial
Bei-Hung Chang, ScD, CHQOER, Bedford VAMC and Boston University School of Public Health, D Jones, Boston University School of Public Health, A Hendricks, CHQOER, Bedford VAMC and Boston University School of Public Health, U Boehmer, CHQOER, Bedford VAMC and Boston University School of Public Health, JS Locastro, VA Boston Healthcare System, M Slawsky, VA Boston Healthcare System

Objectives: We document patient self-reported physical and emotional changes after participation in relaxation response (RR) training, cardiac education (EDU) and usual care (UC), in veterans with congestive heart failure (CHF). We also speculate about reasons for these changes.

Methods: Patients in the RR and EDU groups of a randomized trial were asked to attend 15 weekly group sessions to learn various RR techniques or cardiac education topics, respectively. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 57 patients who completed the interventions and/or first study outcome assessment. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and analyzed according to grounded theory methods of qualitative analysis.

Results: Half of the 20 RR group interviewees reported physical improvements including less fatigue, easier breathing, decreased chest pain, and an increased ability to relax and sleep. Thirteen reported emotional improvements including less anger and anxiety, more patience, and better ability to cope with frustration and road rage. Five out of 16 EDU group interviewees reported physical improvement, and 8 reported emotional improvement. These improvements were centered around a better understanding of the disease and drug side effects and resulted to feeling more at ease. None of the UC group interviewees reported any improvement.

Conclusions: Although the group support and interaction contribute to the benefits reported by both RR and EDU groups, the ability to use the RR techniques seems to have a unique contribution to the improvement and distinguish the two groups.

Impact: The results of this study suggest the value of the RR training in health care for CHF patients.