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Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2013 Aug;12(4):353-9. doi: 10.1177/1474515112459618. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Relatives' experiences during the next of kin's hospital stay after surviving cardiac arrest and therapeutic hypothermia.

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Department of Surgical Sciences - Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care, Uppsala University, Sweden.



To describe relatives' experiences during the next of kin's hospital stay after surviving a cardiac arrest (CA) treated with hypothermia at an intensive care unit (ICU).


Twenty relatives were interviewed when the person having suffered the CA was discharged from hospital, 1.5 to 6 weeks post-CA. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.


Three themes are described: The first period of chaos, Feeling secure in a difficult situation, and Living in a changed existence. Relatives found it difficult to assimilate the medical information and wanted it in written form. They wanted honest and clear information about their next of kin's condition and prognosis. They lacked rehabilitation plans after discharge from the medical ward. Relatives felt a need to maintain telephone contact with family members and friends, which was time-consuming. They felt guilty and had a conscience about these feelings. Relatives felt uncertain about the future, but still hopeful.


Relatives asked for more information and individual rehabilitation plans. Booklets describing CA, the ICU stay and continuing care and rehabilitation directed at both the patients and their relatives are needed. Follow-up visits to the ICU staff, for both patients and relatives, need to be arranged. Hospitals should consider having a rehabilitation plan for this group of patients, which is presented by a team of healthcare professionals and that focuses on the individual's situation, including the consequences of their heart disease and brain damage.


Cardiac arrest; hypothermia treatment; relatives

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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