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Keywords:

  • fatigue;
  • grounded theory;
  • incomprehensible fatigue;
  • interviews;
  • myocardial infarction;
  • nursing

Abstract

Title. Living with incomprehensible fatigue after recent myocardial infarction.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of what fatigue means to patients with recent myocardial infarction (MI) and how they manage to deal with the consequences of this symptom.

Background.  After MI, fatigue is a frequent and distressing symptom. In nursing practice and in everyday conversations, the term ‘tiredness’ has a broad meaning that is often used synonymously with fatigue. Fatigue may be defined as a state along an adaptation continuum with tiredness and exhaustion as distinct states at the ends of the continuum.

Method.  In accordance with a constructivist grounded theory method, 19 patients were interviewed four months after having a MI. The informants were chosen from a larger sample of patients admitted to a coronary care unit during the period October 2005 to September 2006.

Findings. Living with incomprehensible fatigue was identified as the central theme, which described what fatigue meant to patients 4 months after their MI and how they handled it. The core category was labelled incomprehensible fatigue. Two of the categories refer to consequences: being restricted and feeling defeated and one category describes management: fumbling coping strategies. Finally, one category concerns the outcome: moderate relief of fatigue.

Conclusion.  Nursing interventions could focus on identifying and reducing stressors as well as on increasing patients’ ability to cope with stressors. Further research should focus on identifying stressors and useful coping strategies after MI, knowledge that could be used to prevent aggravation of fatigue.