Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare psychological reactions and family adjustment after sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and internal cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implantation in survivors who did and did not experience defibrillatory shocks the first year of recovery.
Methods: Data were collected as part of a longitudinal prospective study that examined patient and family adjustment after SCA. SCA survivors and one family member per patient were interviewed and completed questionnaires three times within the first year (hospital discharge, 6 months, and 12 months) after SCA.
Sample: Fifteen SCA survivors (13 men and 2 women) between the ages of 30 and 74 (mean 57 years) and one respective family member, usually the spouse, (mean age 53 years) participated. All SCA survivors had had primary ventricular fibrillation outside the hospital, had automatic defibrillators implanted while hospitalized, and were monitored for 1 year.
Results: Participants were divided into shock and no shock groups based on activation of their ICD the first year. The mean number of shocks received in the shock group survivors was 26, with a range of 3 to 100. Anxiety, depression, anger, and stress levels were higher for both survivors and their family members in the group that received defibrillator shocks. Denial was high throughout the entire year in all survivors. Dyadic adjustment and family coping were not found to be significantly different between the no shock and shock groups. A trend toward reduction in family social support and dyadic satisfaction was noted in both groups with time.
Conclusions: Both SCA survivors and their family members experience more psychological distress in the first year after ICD implantation if the defibrillator fires. Families in both shock and no shock groups report lower levels of family support and marital satisfaction the first year after SCA and ICD implantation.