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Nurses Make the Difference

Heart bypass patients benefit from nurse follow-up care

SUNDAY, Oct. 13, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Follow-up care from a nurse after heart bypass surgery makes patients more likely to control their cholesterol and lowers their risk of more heart disease.

That's the finding of a study in the October issue of American Heart Journal.

The study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing included 228 men and women. After having heart bypass surgery, they all received standard care such as information and instructions for diet, activity, and monitoring pulse and temperature.

The study participants were then divided into two groups. One group was given cholesterol-lowering medication and written reports on cholesterol levels were sent to each person and their cardiologist or primary-care doctor.

In the second group, a nurse care manager gave patients individualized counseling, feedback on their lifestyle changes, and prescription and monitoring of drugs to lower cholesterol. The nurse care manager's program included an outpatient visit, phone calls and discussions with the patients' cardiologists or family doctors.

The average time spent on each patient by the nurse care manager averaged less than five hours per patient per year.

The study found that 65 percent of the people in the nurse care management group lowered their cholesterol to recommended levels, compared to 35 percent of the people in the other group. The people receiving nurse follow-up also reported healthier diet and exercise habits.

"When heart bypass patients discharged from the hospital after surgery aren't able to lower their cholesterol levels, they are likely to end up back in the hospital," says study lead author Jerilyn Allen, a professor of nursing.

"Our research suggests that more aggressive treatment is needed to enable patients with a history of heart disease to manage their cholesterol, improve their health, and avoid complications," Allen says.

More information

To learn more about cholesterol reduction, go to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, Oct. 3, 2002
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