The psychological impact of pulmonary embolism: A mixed‐methods study
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Background: Patients diagnosed with pulmonary embolism (PE) are reported to experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and existential anxiety following their diagnosis. They may also experience negative changes in perspective and hypervigilance of PE symptoms. Objective: The aim of this study was to document the mental and emotional experience associated with PE diagnosis through the lens of PTSD, to better understand the factors involved in psychological distress following receipt of a PE diagnosis. Patients/Methods: This was a mixed-methods study in two parts: (i) measurement of self-reported PTSD symptoms among patients attending thrombosis clinic and (ii) semistructured interviews with patients about their experience of receiving a diagnosis of PE and its psychological aftermath. Results: Of 72 patients who participated in the survey, two met the criteria for a tentative diagnosis of PTSD. The semistructured interviews with 37 patients suggested that around half of respondents experienced some degree of ongoing psychological distress. Those with psychological distress often recalled painful symptoms, recalled diagnosis delivery as stressful, worried about PE recurrence, and had anxieties about stopping their anticoagulant medication. Few patients reported inclination to seek support from professional mental health services. Conclusions: We found ongoing and untreated psychological distress among people who were previously diagnosed with PE.