Patients with heart rhythm disturbances: Variables associated with increased psychologic distress

C. S. Dunnington, N. J. Johnson, B. A. Finkelmeier, J. Lyons, R. F. Kehoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The spectrum of psychologic distress in patients with serious heart rhythm disturbances (HRD) has not been well defined. A survey of personal and clinical background data and general psychologic status was made of 136 patients with serious HRD defined as sustained or symptomatic ventricular tachycardia or fibilliation. Two questionnaires were used: the SCL-90-R, a standard self-report symptom inventory of present psychologic status, and a functional capacity and occupational status questionnaire developed by us. Of the 105 respondents, 89 completed both questionnaires, the results of which form the basis of this report. The patients with HRD were found to have significantly elevated SCL-90-R scores reflective of an increase in overall psychologic distress (Global Severity Index, Positive Symptom Distress Index, and Positive Symptom Total) as well as significantly higher scores on the specific constructs. Within the HRD population, univariate analysis revealed three variables significantly correlated with increased psychologic distress: (1) requiring long-term antiarrhythmic medication, (2) being forced to modify work status, and (3) having more advanced cardiac impairment. Patients who had two or more of these variables, termed risk factors, reported significantly more symptoms and greater psychologic distress than those with zero or one risk factor. We conclude that patients with serious HRD have greater psychologic distress than do normal subjects. Within the HRD group, patients requiring long-term medical treatment for their arrhythmia, those forced to modify work status, and those with more advanced cardiac impairment are at greater risk for emotional sequelae, and patients with two or more of the identified risk factors are more likely to have elevated psychologic distress. These findings emphasize the importance of psychologic assessment and counseling for patients with serious HRD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-389
Number of pages9
JournalHeart and Lung: Journal of Acute and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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