Heart disease is the leading cause of death today for both men and women in the United States. Needless to say, cardiac patients experience a great deal of anxiety. And although the procedures for improving the health of these patients have become less invasive over the past few years, the patient is still acutely stressed. Artwork for these patients can add a dimension of caring and support.
Cardiac catheterization is a commonly performed procedure in diagnosing heart disease. It requires special positioning of the patient that impacts the placement of art. The procedure involves cutting the femoral artery in the groin and threading a catheter through it into the heart. The patient, sedated only with an IV of Valium, is taken on a gurney to the procedure room. The ceiling of the holding area is an ideal place for back-lighted photography instead of art for the wall, as is that of the procedure room itself.
Even the recovery rooms need ceiling art instead of wall art because the patient must lie perfectly still and flat on his back for at least four hours in order to prevent hemorrhaging from the severed artery in his leg.
Whether ceiling or wall art, serene views of nature that allow the patient a path of escape are appropriate for heart patients. Roger Ulrich, Ph. D., the world’s leading authority on the effects of art on patient outcomes, has documented positive outcomes in numerous studies in heart patients who view images such as these.
In studies at Uppsala Hospital in Sweden he found that post-operative heart surgery patients had better outcomes from viewing these images than from viewing abstract art or no art at all. These improved medical outcomes included lowered blood pressure and heart rate, lessened need for strong narcotic analgesics for pain, fewer complaints of discomfort to the nursing staff and a somewhat earlier time of discharge.
Art for heart patients can also be used educationally to reinforce lifestyle changes necessary for their survival. In an art program for a heart hospital serving Hispanic patients, we used pictures like these to reinforce concepts of exercise and a healthier diet, a known contributor to heart disease within the culture.