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J Adv Nurs. 2010 Aug;66(8):1760-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05352.x. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Patients treated with therapeutic hypothermia after cardiac arrest: relatives' experiences.

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Intensive Care Unit, Sunderby Hospital, Luleå, Sweden.



This paper is a report of a study describing the experiences of relatives when someone they care for survived a cardiac arrest and was treated with therapeutic hypothermia in an intensive care unit.


Witnessing a family member suffering a cardiac arrest is a traumatic event for relatives. Relatives constitute an important support for critically ill patients. It is suggested that therapeutic hypothermia improves the outcome for patients who survive cardiac arrest.


Qualitative personal interviews were conducted during 2009 with eight relatives of patients who had survived cardiac arrest and been treated with therapeutic hypothermia. The interview texts were subjected to qualitative content analysis.


The analysis resulted in three themes and eight categories. Relatives described the event of the cardiac arrest as frightening. Seeing the patient connected to tubes and equipment induced a feeling of unreality; the patient was experienced as cold, lifeless and hard to recognize. The relatives faced an anxiety-filled future not knowing what the outcome for their relative would be. Relatives supported each other during this the difficult time, and kept hoping that the patient would survive injury.


Seeing a patient who has had a cardiac arrest and received therapeutic hypothermia is extremely demanding for relatives, as the patient seems to be lifeless. Relatives need to know what is happening on a continual basis during the patient's entire stay in hospital and even afterwards, and they need to be given opportunities to discuss their own situation and worries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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