Pain and anxiety in rural acute coronary syndrome patients awaiting diagnostic cardiac catheterization

Sheila O'Keefe-McCarthy, Michael McGillion, Sean P. Clarke, Judith McFetridge-Durdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: In rural areas of Canada, people with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) can wait up to 32 hours for transfer for diagnostic cardiac catheterization (CATH). While awaiting CATH, it is critical that pain and anxiety management be optimal to preserve myocardial muscle and minimize the risk of further deterioration. Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between clinical management, cardiac pain intensity, and state anxiety for rural ACS patients awaiting diagnostic CATH. Methods: In a prospective, descriptive-correlational repeated-measures design involving 121 ACS rural patients, we examined the associations of analgesic and nitroglycerin administration with cardiac pain intensity (numeric rating scale) and state anxiety (Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory) and also nurses' pain knowledge and attitudes (Toronto Pain Management InventoryYACS Version and Knowledge and Attitudes Survey Regarding Pain) using linear mixed models. Results: The mean age of patients was 67.6 T 13, 50% were men, and 60% had unstable angina and the remainder had non-ST-elevated myocardial infarction. During follow-up, cardiac pain intensity scores remained in the mild range from 1.1 T 2.2 to 2.4 T 2.7. State anxiety ranged from 44.0 T 7.2 to 46.2 T 6.6. Cumulative analgesic dose was associated with a reduction in cardiac pain by 1.0 points (numeric rating scale, 0Y10) (t108 = j2.5; SE, j0.25; confidence interval, j0.45 to j0.06; P = .013). Analgesic administration was not associated with state anxiety. Over the course of follow-up, ACS patients reported consistently high anxiety scores. Conclusions: Whereas cardiac pain declines in most patients in the early hours after admission, many patients experience a persistent anxious state up to 8 hours later, which suggest that development and testing of protocols for anxiety reduction may be needed. More urgently, the development and examination of a treatment intervention, early on in the ACS trajectory, are warranted that targets pain and anxiety for those for whom immediate angioplasty is not possible and who continue to experience cardiac pain and persistent high levels of anxiety. Moreover, a larger prognostic study is required to determine whether high levels of anxiety in rural ACS patients are predictive of major adverse cardiac events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-557
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 9 2015


  • acute coronary syndrome (ACS)
  • anxiety
  • nurse knowledge and attitudes
  • pain
  • pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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