OBJECTIVES: To explore psychological and socioeconomic concerns of patients who queued for coronary artery bypass surgery and the effectiveness of support existing in one Canadian cardiovascular surgical center. DESIGN: Standardised questionnaire and structured interview. SETTING: Victoria General Hospital, Halifax, Nova Scotia. SUBJECTS: 100 consecutive patients awaiting non-emergency bypass surgery. RESULTS: Most patients (96%) found the explanation of findings at cardiac catheterisation and the justification given for surgery satisfactory. However, 84 patients complained that waiting for surgery was stressful and 64 registered at least moderate anxiety. Anger over delays was expressed by 16%, but only 4% thought that queuing according to medical need was unfair. Economic hardship, attributed to delayed surgery, was declared by 15 patients. This primarily affected those still working--namely, blue collar workers and younger age groups. Only 41% of patients were satisfied with existing institutional supports. Problems related mainly to poor communication. CONCLUSIONS: Considerable anxiety seems to be experienced by most patients awaiting bypass surgery. Better communication and education might alleviate some of this anxiety. Economic hardship affects certain patient subgroups more than others and may need to be weighed in the selection process. A more definitive examination of these issues is warranted.
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