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Women’s experiences of myocardial infarction were described in terms of gradual onset, not having chest pain, and responding to symptoms

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J W Albarran

Correspondence to: Mr J W Albarran, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK; john.albarran@uwe.ac.uk

QUESTION

How do women experience symptoms before and during myocardial infarction (MI)?

DESIGN

Qualitative study.

SETTING

A coronary care unit in Bristol, UK.

PATIENTS

A purposive sample of 12 women ⩾18 years of age (age range 48–78 y), who had an MI (increase in serum troponin >0.1 ng/l, with or without ST-segment elevation on the electrocardiogram) and were free of discomfort for 24 hours after MI. Exclusion criteria were inability to speak English, clinical instability, and cognitive problems.

METHODS

Women participated in 30–45 minute semi-structured interviews, which addressed their thoughts and perceptions of the onset of their symptoms. The term “chest pain” was not included in any questions unless participants used it. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim.

MAIN FINDINGS

3 themes reflected the experiences of women who had an MI. (1) Gradual awareness. Women noticed a series of symptoms in the previous weeks or hours or as part of the acute MI episode. Breathlessness, sometimes associated with physical exertion, was a …

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