• abdominal aortic aneurysm;
  • content analysis;
  • information;
  • nursing;
  • transition

Aims and objectives.  The aim was to elucidate patients’ lived experience of the care pathway of going through open surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Background.  Open surgical treatment has a great impact on patients’ health-related quality of life both before and after treatment. The transition from being independent and asymptomatic to dependent on nursing care can be difficult. To facilitate this process and provide high-quality care, patients’ needs must be better understood.

Design.  An exploratory descriptive design was chosen to describe and understand patients’ lived experience.

Method.  Audio-taped interviews were performed three months postoperatively, covering the care pathway before and after surgery. Interviews were analysed with qualitative content analysis.

Results.  The informants made a transition from becoming aware of the deadly risk associated with abdominal aortic aneurysm to gradually understanding the physical and emotional impact of the surgical procedure during the recovery process. The experience of not understanding fully the risks of undergoing surgery or its consequences on daily life made the informants unprepared for complications and limitations during the recovery period. Many concerns emerged, with a need for more dialogue and opportunities to understand their own care than those provided by the health care staff.

Conclusions.  To facilitate the transition process, health care staff should consider patients’ unpreparedness for the physical and emotional impact that can follow diagnosis and treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm and recognise the need for dialogue to enhance participation during recovery.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Throughout the care pathway, patients’ need for information and for opportunities to reflect on bodily and emotional reactions to the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm should be recognised by nurses and physicians to support patients getting realistic expectations of the consequences of treatment and facilitate participation in decisions concerning care and medical treatment.