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Twenty patients surviving cardiac resuscitation following myocardial infarction were seen at least six months after the cardiac arrest. The patient and spouse were interviewed separately. Though they had not usually been informed by the medical staff, 16 of the 20 patients were aware that a cardiac arrest had occurred and had a good understanding of what this meant. Six patients remembered the start or end of the cardiac arrest and five specifically remembered external cardiac massage. Their feelings and their attitudes to the cardiac arrest are described.
Initial anxiety was experienced by all the patients and their spouses, particularly after hospital discharge, but in the long term only five patients failed to make a reasonably satisfactory adjustment. Poor rehabilitation seemed to be mainly associated with persisting physical disability and personality factors and not with features associated with the cardiac arrest, such as the duration of external cardiac massage. The spouses often found it difficult to know exactly how to treat the patients after hospital discharge and most patients and spouses felt that more explanation and discussion with the medical staff would have helped to alleviate anxiety.