Aims Research has demonstrated the beneficial impact that pre-operative education exerts on the postoperative recovery of patients having surgery but little work has focused specifically on cardiac surgery. Therefore a randomized controlled trial was designed to elucidate the consequences of pre-operative education, given before admission, on postoperative pain, anxiety, depression and wellbeing in the 6 months following a first episode of coronary artery surgery.
Method and Results Three hundred and fifty-six people were randomized into the study, with 188 in the experimental and 168 in the control arms. Patients in the experimental group received the intervention, a day of education by members of the multidisciplinary team, prior to admission for surgery. Experimental and control subjects had the usual care, which involved education on admission and throughout their stay in hospital. Measurement was conducted on entry to the study, before randomization, and at 3 days, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months following operation. A variety of tools were used: the SF-36 Health Status questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, the General Well-Being questionnaire and a pain measurement tool. Analysis was done using the intention-totreat principle and non-parametric statistics. There were no significant differences between groups in the primary outcomes namely anxiety (P=0·09) and pain (P=0·48), or in depression (P=0·62) and wellbeing (‘worn out’ P=0·11; ‘tense and uptight’ P=0·29) 6 months after operation. This was also the case 3 days after coronary artery surgery. There was a significant difference in length of hospital stay (P=0·01) with the experimental group having the longer stay. These findings contrast with much of the existing evidence.
Conclusion The findings demonstrate that there is no benefit to be gained from this form of pre-operative education and that there is an associated increase in length of hospital stay. Future research could examine an ongoing programme of education and support, and might use alternative methods such as CD-ROM or the Internet.