Guided Imagery & Meditation Show Promise For Mitigating Heart Failure Symptoms

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin's School of Nursing performed a systematic review of the efficacy of relaxation, meditation and guided imagery on symptom management for heart failure, such as pain, dyspnea, fatigue, and sleep disruption.

Data bases such as CINAHL, Medline, and PsychINFO were searched from inception through December 2014. Articles were selected for inclusion if they tested a cognitive-behavioral (mind-body) strategy using a quasi-experimental or experimental design, involved a sample of adults with heart failure, and measured pain, dyspnea, fatigue, sleep disturbance, or symptom-related quality of life.

Thirteen articles describing 9 unique studies met the criteria and were included in the review. Five studies tested relaxation strategies, 3 tested meditation strategies, and 1 tested a guided imagery strategy.

Of the 9 studies, 7 demonstrated some improvement in symptom outcomes. Relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, or combinations of these strategies resulted in less dyspnea and better sleep compared with attention control or usual care conditions and reduced pain, dyspnea, fatigue, and sleep disturbance within treatment groups (pretreatment to posttreatment).

Symptom-related quality of life was improved with meditation compared with attention control and usual care conditions and improved pre- to post-guided imagery.

The investigators concluded that studies exploring cognitive-behavioral symptom management strategies in heart failure varied in quality and reported mixed findings, but indicate potential beneficial effects of relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery on heart failure-related symptoms.

They recommend that future research should test cognitive-behavioral strategies in rigorously designed efficacy trials, using samples selected for their symptom experience, and measure pain, dyspnea, fatigue, and sleep disturbance outcomes with targeted symptom measures.

Citation: Kwekkeboom KL1, Bratzke LC. A Systematic Review of Relaxation, Meditation, and Guided Imagery Strategies for Symptom Management in Heart Failure. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 2015 Jun 10. [Epub ahead of print]