Researchers from the Department of Surgery at Columbia University in New York examined whether guided imagery could reduce depression and therefore post-op cardiac events and even deaths (associated with depression) in patients who’d undergone coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Traci Stein and her team hypothesized that this low cost and easy-to-implement technique could reduce post-op distress in CABG patients.  Fifty-six patients were randomized into 3 groups: guided imagery, music therapy, and standard care control.
Patients in the imagery and music groups listened to Health Journeys audiotapes preoperatively and intraoperatively.  All patients completed psychological, complementary medicine therapies use, and other assessments preoperatively and at 1 week and 6 months postoperatively.

Investigators learned that only pre-operative distress was predictive of post-operative distress at follow-up.

Use of complementary medicine therapies was high in all groups and this fact, in addition to the small sample size, may have accounted for the lack of significant relationship between imagery and postoperative distress.

Regardless, this complementary and alternative medicine therapy was palatable to patients and used well. Given its efficacy in other patient populations, the researchers conclude that it is worth exploring for potential utility with this population, using a larger sample.

Citation: Stein TR, Olivo EL, Grand SH, Namerow PB, Costa J, Oz MC. A pilot study to assess the effects of a guided imagery audiotape intervention on psychological outcomes in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2010 Jul-Aug; 24 (4): pages 213-22. [email protected]