Psychological disorders and distress after adult cardiothoracic transplantation

J Cardiovasc Nurs. Sep-Oct 2005;20(5 Suppl):S51-66. doi: 10.1097/00005082-200509001-00007.


This review summarizes and integrates evidence concerning mental health outcomes following heart, lung, and heart-lung transplantation. Drawing on English-language case reports and empirical studies published between January 1980 and December 2004, the goals of the review were to (a) describe the prevalence and clinical characteristics of psychological disorders, as well as the level and pattern of clinically significant distress in the years posttransplant; (b) review the major risk factors for poor posttransplant psychological outcomes; (c) consider evidence suggesting that posttransplant psychological outcomes predict physical morbidity and mortality after transplant; (d) summarize findings from intervention studies designed to improve posttransplant psychological outcomes; and (e) provide patient care recommendations for the practicing clinician and recommendations for continued clinical research. Several major conclusions can be drawn from this literature. First, depressive and anxiety-related disorders and associated distress are common posttransplant. While new onsets of disorder may decline after the first year posttransplant, the development of new medical complications in the late years posttransplant may provoke renewed distress and recurrences of disorder. Second, risk factors for posttransplant psychological disorders and elevated distress include both standard risk factors observed in other populations (eg, younger age, lifetime history of psychiatric disorder) and transplant-specific factors related to physical functional impairments, social supports, and strategies for coping with health problems. Third, while little evidence has been published to date, there is some indication that posttransplant psychological outcomes can predict subsequent physical health outcomes. Fourth, extremely few intervention studies in cardiothoracic transplant recipients have been performed. The few reports indicate that multicomponent psychosocial strategies focused on risk factor reduction and enhancement of personal coping resources may lead to reductions in psychological distress. An important caveat in considering all of the evidence reviewed is that most studies focus on heart rather than lung or heart-lung recipients. Recommendations for practicing clinicians focus on assessment and treatment options, based on the evidence to date. Research recommendations focus on the need for intervention effectiveness studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Heart Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Heart Transplantation* / psychology
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Lung Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Lung Transplantation* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Morbidity
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome