During a Dec. 3 presentation at the Radiological Society of North America's Annual Meeting, researchers introduced a new study linking patient mood to screening outcomes. For the study, researchers asked 230 patients to fill out a Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule questionnaire prior to undergoing image-guided interventional radiology procedures. Of the 104 patients who anticipated a negative experience, 23 received unfavorable screening results. Conversely, of the 126 patients who anticipated a positive experience, only 15 received unfavorable results.
"Our study shows that mood matters," Dr. Elvira Lang, an interventional radiologist and one of the study's co-authors, said in a RSNA news release. "You don't need to have a chipper, cheery attitude prior to your procedure. You just have to overcome negative emotions and get to a neutral level."
The notion that mood can tangibly impact care outcomes irritates many medical professionals, reported CBS News. They believe this idea not only lacks scientific support but also belittles the severity and breadth of serious conditions.
"That's dangerous nonsense, to think that you can think your way out of cancer, or think your way out of heart disease," Richard Sloan, Ph.D., a psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center, said in an interview with the news network.
However, recent studies have forced some medical realists to question their thinking on the power of positivity. The RSNA study only adds to this growing body of research.
The Mind Rules The Body
In July of 2001, a group of physicians evaluated 16 studies published between 1966 and 1998, reported ABC News. Each of these papers addressed positive thinking and its effect on care outcomes. The researchers found that 15 of the 16 studies postulated that positivity correlates to favorable care outcomes. The Canadian Medical Association Journal published the results.
Later in 2001, staff from Johns Hopkins Medicine presented a study that linked optimism and favorable care outcomes in individuals at risk for heart disease, reported the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hopkins researchers tracked 586 at-risk patients for five to 12 years. The more optimistic subjects cut their risk of suffering a severe cardiac event in half.
Last year, researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London published a study claiming moods affect quality of life, reported The Washington Post. The study involved 3,000 subjects aged 60 and over whose deteriorating physiques were causing quality-of-life issues. Researchers analyzed the subjects' psychological states and found that 21 percent generally enjoyed life, 56 percent expressed medium level of enjoyment and 23 percent expressed low levels. After completing this analysis, the researchers discovered that only 4 percent of the first group had developed two or more functional issues compared with 17 percent in the latter group.
Clinicians Consider Feelings
The researchers at the helm of these studies are looking to make clinicians aware of the mind-body correlation and convince them to exploit it as part of a treatment regimen.
"Clinicians should talk to their patients and find out what their hopes and fears are before a procedure," Dr. Donald Cole, a senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto and lead author of the CMA Journal study, said in an interview with ABC News. "If this were part of the process, recovery expectations could be talked about and then, according to the results of this study, at least, recovery could be better."
Organizations like the Mayo Clinic offer patients tips on how to maintain a positive attitude. However, this thinking has not made its way into examination and operating rooms. Clinicians, physicians and screeners continue to focus on the emotionless aspects of the care process.
"This is a real issue. The procedure room is a two-way street in which the patient can affect the health care professional and vice versa. Any time the team must manage an adverse event, it takes attention away from the procedure," Dr. Lang said.
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