Primary angioplasty for heart attack: mismatch between expectations and reality?


F. Astin: e-mail:


Title. Primary angioplasty for heart attack: mismatch between expectations and reality?

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore patients’ experiences of primary angioplasty and assess their illness perceptions during early recovery.

Background.  Primary angioplasty is recognized as the gold standard treatment for patients with ST elevation myocardial infarction, yet little is known about patients’ experiences of this treatment. Recent policy change has emphasized the need for clinical practice to be more patient-centred. One way to achieve this is to understand patients’ experiences of treatment better.

Method.  A mixed methods exploratory study was carried out in 2006–2007 with a purposive sample of 29 patients. Data were collected 3–12 days after hospital discharge using (a) semi-structured interviews to explore participants’ experiences and (b) The Illness Perception Questionnaire to evaluate illness perceptions. Interview data were analysed using the Framework approach. Questionnaire data were used to inform the qualitative findings.

Findings.  Participants were very positive about their treatment but experienced considerable emotional shock, which was exacerbated by the speed with which events occurred. Patients’ experiences were characterized by a mismatch between their expectations and reality. Questionnaire data supported the notion that they experienced difficulty in ‘making sense’ of their condition in a coherent way. They tended to see their condition as ‘acute’ rather than ‘chronic’ and their treatment as curative.

Conclusion.  Patient education should include focused discussions addressing the ‘mismatches’ that may occur between their expectations and reality. In this way, a more coherent understanding can be promoted, with greater awareness of heart disease as a long-term condition requiring ongoing self-management.