Posttraumatic stress disorder after implantation of a mechanical assist device followed by heart transplantation: evaluation of patients and partners

Transplant Proc. 2005 Mar;37(2):1365-8. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2004.12.248.


Aim: We sought to investigate the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression in patients and their partners after implantation of a mechanical assist device as a bridge to heart transplantation.

Methods: This was a retrospective assessment of 41 patients (age 46.3 +/- 12.0 years; male-female ratio, 38:3; time since transplantation, 55.3 +/- 34.2 months [range, 7-122 months) and 27 partners (male-female ratio 2:25) by standardized instruments (Impact of Event Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), in 2 University Heart Transplant Centers (Vienna, Austria, Munster, Germany). The duration of the support systems (MicroMed DeBakey-VAD in 17 patients, Novacor in 10, Thoratec in 8, TCI HeartMate in 5, and Berlin Heart Incor in 1 patient) ranged from 28 to 711 (176 +/- 146) days.

Results: None of the patients, but 23% of the partners (n = 6), met the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (Maercker cutoff >0). The Impact of Event Scale (IES) sum scales differed significantly between the 2 groups (21.2 +/- 15.1, mean +/- SD) for the patients versus 38.1 +/- 27.8 for the partners, respectively; P = .001). Two percent of the patients, but 19% of the partners, showed mild to moderate depression; 4% of patients, but 23% of their partners, reported mild to moderate anxiety. None of the results were significantly influenced by the time since transplantation, patient age, diagnoses, type of assist device, or indication for heart transplantation.

Conclusions: Despite patients being much closer to a life threat, their partners experience significantly more psychologic distress even in the long run. Our findings highlight the need for attention to the supporting persons.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Heart Transplantation / psychology*
  • Heart-Assist Devices / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires