Psychosocial issues in the election of lung volume reduction surgery

Rachel Ann Sampson (1997)

Emphysema is an extremely compromising illness which can diminish the quality of life for those who suffer from it. Unfortunately, there were few treatment options available for the patient with emphysema. One of the newest options for individuals with emphysema is Lung Volume Reduction surgery (LVR). Notably, the medical outcome of LVR, considered major surgery is uncertain as there is limited data available concerning its impact on health and quality of life. This qualitative, exploratory research investigates individual's perceptions about how psychosocial factors contribute to their decision making process and position about LVR as a form of treatment. This unique topic contributes to the field since there was no psychological research pertaining to a patient's decision to undergo this surgery. It also relates to the broader concern about how individuals generally make complex, ambiguous medical decisions, and what they perceive as the benefits and risks of treatment options in the face of unpredictable outcomes. Results suggest that individuals who would have the surgery experience a tension between quality aspects of their life which they value and limitations secondary to their illness which motivates them to take medical risks in the hope of a more positive outcome. Likewise individuals who would not have the surgery seem unwilling to risk their current health status for an uncertain gain. Implications pertaining to the psychologist's role in helping individuals make medical decisions is explored. Limitations of the study are also considered, and suggestions are made for future research.