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J Clin Nurs. 2007 Apr;16(4):777-85.

Does the experimental design capture the effects of complementary therapy? A study using reflexology for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

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School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, MN, USA.



Our purpose was to pilot test whether reflexology may reduce anxiety in patients undergoing Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery in Iceland.


Nurses need to study the effects of complementary therapies in general and particularly those that may be beneficial to decrease patients' anxiety. It has been assumed that reflexology lessens anxiety, but research is needed to substantiate such expectations.


A pilot study using randomized design with experimental and control groups.


Nine patients were recruited and randomly assigned into groups with five patients assigned into an experimental group receiving reflexology for 30 minutes and four patients into control group which rested for 30 minutes. Anxiety and physiological variables were measured pre- and post-reflexology sessions once a day over five days.


The anxiety scores were lower for patients in the control group on all measures. Systolic blood pressure lowered significantly more in the control group than in the treatment group. No significant changes were observed for other variables. Patients' comments and responses overwhelmingly suggested increased well-being due to both experimental and control intervention.


This study showed little evidence to support reflexology as a mean of reducing anxiety in CABG patients. Several methodological problems were identified that need to be considered further.


It is suggested that reflexology should be tailored to individual needs and research methods used that allow for capturing its holistic nature. Further scholarly work is warranted to explore several methodological issues in studying complementary therapies in a highly complex treatment situation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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