Original Article| Volume 27, ISSUE 2, P260-266, February 2018

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“Eight Days of Nightmares … ” – Octogenarian Patients’ Experiences of Postoperative Delirium after Transcatheter or Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement

Published:March 21, 2017DOI:


      Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) and transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) are increasingly performed in octogenarian patients with severe aortic stenosis (AS), including those with high surgical risk. Postoperative delirium (PD) is a common and serious complication in older patients, characterised by reduced awareness, change in consciousness, disturbance in logical thinking and hallucinations.


      To explore how octogenarian patients experienced PD, a qualitative study was conducted including five women and five men between 81 and 88 years. The incidence of PD was assessed for five days using the Confusion Assessment Method. Cognitive function was assessed preoperatively and at a 6-month follow-up using the Mini-Mental State Examination. In-depth interviews were conducted 6–12 months post-discharge, transcribed, and analysed using Giorgi’s phenomenological method.


      Postoperative delirium experiences were grouped into six themes: “Like dreaming while awake”, “Disturbed experiences of time”, “Existing in a twilight zone”, “Trapped in medical tubes”, “Moving between different surroundings” and “Meeting with death and the deceased”.


      For the first time, we show that octogenarian patients who undergo SAVR or TAVI have strong and distressing memories of their delirious state that can persist for up to 12 months later. These findings provide valuable new information that will likely improve delivery of health services and enhance professional and empathic care of octogenarians after SAVR and TAVI.


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