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Long-term psychological consequences of symptomatic pulmonary embolism: a qualitative study
  1. Simon Noble1,
  2. Rhian Lewis2,
  3. Jodie Whithers2,
  4. Sarah Lewis3,
  5. Paul Bennett2
  1. 1Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Group, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK
  2. 2Department of Clinical Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, UK
  3. 3Department of Haematology, Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, Wales, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Simon Noble; simon.noble{at}


Objective To explore the psychological consequences of experiencing symptomatic pulmonary embolism (PE).

Design Qualitative interview-based study using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Setting Outpatients who attended an anticoagulation clinic in a district general hospital.

Participants Patients attending an anticoagulation clinic following hospital admission for symptomatic PE were approached to participate. A total of 9 (4 women, 5 men) of 11 patients approached agreed to be interviewed. Participants were aged between 26 and 72 years and had previously experienced a PE between 9 and 60 months (median=26 months, mean=24 months).

Intervention Audiotaped semistructured qualitative interviews were undertaken to explore participants experiences of having a PE and how it had affected their lives since. Data were transcribed and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis to identify emergent themes.

Results Three major themes with associated subthemes were identified. Participants described having a PE as a life-changing experience comprising initial shock, followed by feeling of loss of self, life-changing decisions and behaviour modification. Features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were described with flashbacks, hypervigilance and intrusive thoughts being most prevalent. Participants identified several areas of support needed for such patients including easier access to support through information giving and emotional support.

Conclusions Long-term consequences of venous thromboembolism go beyond the physical alone. Patients describe experiencing symptomatic PE to be a life-changing distressing event leading to behaviour modification and in some PTSD. It is likely that earlier psychological intervention may reduce such long-term sequelae.


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