Background: As survival estimates for cystic fibrosis (CF) steadily increase long-term management has become an important focus for intervention. Psychological interventions are largely concerned with emotional and social adjustments, adherence to treatment and quality of life, however no systematic review of such interventions has been undertaken for this disease.
Objectives: To describe the extent and quality of effectiveness studies utilising psychological interventions for CF and whether these interventions provide significant psychosocial and physical benefits in addition to standard care.
Search strategy: Relevant trials were identified from searches of Ovid MEDLINE, the Cochrane trial registers for CF and Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Groups and PsychINFO; unpublished trials were located through professional networks and Listserves. Most recent search: April 2003.
Selection criteria: This review included RCTs and quasi-randomised trials. Study participants were children and adults diagnosed with CF, and their immediate family members. Psychological interventions were from a broad range of modalities and outcomes were primarily psychosocial, although physical outcomes and cost effectiveness were also considered.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently selected relevant trials and assessed their methodological quality. For binary and continuous outcomes a pooled estimate of treatment effect was calculated for each outcome.
Main results: This review is based on the findings of eight studies, representing data from a total of 358 participants. Studies fell into four conceptually similar groups: (1) gene pre-test education counselling for relatives of those with CF (one study); (2) biofeedback, massage and music therapy to assist physiotherapy (three studies); (3) behavioural intervention to improve dietary intake in children up to 12 years (three studies); and (4) self-administration of treatments to improve quality of life in adults (one study). Interventions were largely educational or behavioural, targeted at specific treatment concerns during the chronic phase. No completed studies concentrating on complex treatment approaches were found. There is some evidence that behavioural interventions can improve emotional outcomes in people with CF and their carers. There was no consistent effect on lung function although one small study showed that biofeedback assisted breathing re-training was associated with improvement in some measures of spirometric lung function. Insufficient evidence is available at this point for interventions aimed at other aspects of the disease process.
Reviewer's conclusions: Multicentre approaches are required to increase the sample sizes of studies in the psychosocial field and to enhance the power and precision of the findings. This has consequent implications for funding.