Scand J Caring Sci; 2011; 25; 787–797
Prehospital experiences of older men with a first myocardial infarction: a qualitative analysis within the Northern Sweden MONICA Study
Aim: To explore older men’s prehospital experiences of their first myocardial infarction (MI).
Background: The delay between the onset of symptoms to the initiation of medical care is a major determinant of prognosis in MI. The majority of people experiencing MI are men. But few studies have been conducted solely on men’s experiences before seeking medical care for MI. The objective of this study was to explore older men’s experiences of symptoms and their reasoning during the prehospital phase of their first MI.
Method: Data collection was carried out through individual interviews with 20 men representing the age range 65–80 (mean 71) years. The participants were interviewed 3 days after admission for a confirmed first MI. The interviews were designed to prompt the men to describe their symptoms and their reasoning up to the decision to seek care. A qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the interviews.
Findings: The prehospital phase in older men was found to be a complex and extended journey. The symptoms were perceived from diffuse ill-being to a cluster of alarming symptoms. The participants dealt with conceptions about MI symptoms. They were unsure about the cause of their symptoms, which did not correspond to their expectations about an MI, and whether they should seek medical care. They had difficulty making the final decision to seek care and strived to maintain a normal life. They initially tried to understand, reduce or treat the symptoms by themselves. The decision to seek medical care preceded a movement from uncertainty to conviction.
Conclusions: Understanding older men’s prehospital experiences of MI is essential to reduce their patient decision times. This requires knowledge about the complexity and dynamic evolvement of symptoms, beliefs and strategies to maintain an ordinary life.