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Guided Imagery Helps Cancer Patients Breathe Easier (Literally)

Man in bedResearchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Nursing used a one-group, repeated measures design to investigate the efficacy of guided imagery with theta music on 53 advanced cancer patients suffering from dyspnea (difficulty breathing). The intervention consisted of four periods: (a) pretest; (b) intervention with peaceful non-theta music; (c) intervention with 10 min of guided imagery with theta music, with the first and last 3 min being theta music only (i.e., the middle 4 min was guided imagery with theta music); and (d) post-test.

Dyspnea outcomes were measured with the Modified Borg Scale (MBS) for self-reported evaluation of dyspneic symptoms. Physiological parameters measured were pulse oxygen saturation (SpO2), end-tidal CO2 (EtCO2), heart rate (HR), and respiratory rate (RR). Post-test qualitative data were obtained via interview for subjective patient experience.

The results revealed that the combination of guided imagery with music produced a significant decrease in Borg Scale scores. It also significantly increased end-tidal CO2, decreased respiratory rate, and decreased heart rate. Additionally, 90% of subjects gave positive qualitative reviews of the guided imagery plus music intervention. Pulse oxygen saturation did not change significantly over time.

Music alone was also found to be effective, but not as effective as guided imagery plus music. The soothing non-musical intervention was not found to be effective.

The authors conclude that this study demonstrates that guided imagery with theta music is a useful intervention for palliative care of patients with dyspnea and should be considered for low-cost end-of-life palliative care for dyspnea.

Belleruth Naparstek, LISW, BCD

Lai WS, Chao CS, Yang WP, Chen CH. Efficacy of Guided Imagery With Theta Music for Advanced Cancer Patients With Dyspnea: A Pilot Study. Biological Research for Nursing. 2010 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

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