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Manifestations of health anxiety in patients with heart transplant

      Highlights

      • Health anxiety in heart transplanted patients has been neglected by the literature.
      • Health anxiety was significantly associated with a worse clinical status.
      • An important subset of patients showed clinically significant fears of illness.
      • Health anxiety should be carefully assessed during the transplantation program.
      • Specific interventions for health anxiety may be necessary after transplantation.

      Abstract

      Background

      Health anxiety is an important component of psychological adjustment to chronic medical conditions. However, it has been overlooked after heart transplantation.

      Objectives

      To examine demographic, clinical, and psychological correlates of health anxiety in heart transplanted patients and to compare health anxiety between patients and a sample of matched controls from the general population.

      Methods

      The study design was observational. Seventy-three cardiac recipients and 73 controls completed the Illness Attitude Scales and the Symptom Questionnaire. Patients’ clinical parameters were collected.

      Results

      Health anxiety was significantly associated with clinical variables suggesting a worse outcome, especially a higher NYHA class and occurrence of cancer. Compared to controls, patients had significantly more “hypochondriacal responses” (32.9% vs. 16.4%), an index of clinically significant health anxiety.

      Conclusions

      Health anxiety affects a significant subset of heart transplanted patients and deserves a thorough assessment. Cardiologists’ and nurses’ specific communication skills and psychological treatment strategies may be necessary.

      Keywords

      Abbreviations:

      IAS (illness attitude scales), NYHA (New York heart association), SQ (symptom questionnaire), VIF (variance inflation factor)
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