Prayer, Noetic Studies Feasible; Results Indicate Benefit to Heart Patients
Healing Prayer and Heart
Cardiac patients who received intercessory prayer in addition to coronary stenting appeared to have better clinical outcomes than those treated with standard stenting therapy alone, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center.
Their results further suggest that using rigorous scientific methods to study the therapeutic value of prayer and other noetic interventions appears feasible and warrants larger-scale, more definitive investigations. Noetic interventions are defined as "a healing influence performed without the use of a drug, device or surgical procedure," said the researchers.
Results of the phase I feasibility-pilot, known as the MANTRA (Monitoring and Actualization of Noetic TRAinings) Project, appear in the Nov. 1 issue of the American Heart Journal.
"We now know that clinically meaningful, high-quality research can be done in this area," said Duke cardiologist Dr. Mitch Krucoff, who co-directs the study with Suzanne Crater, a Duke nurse practitioner. "The data are suggestive that there may be a measurable therapeutic benefit related to noetic therapies in patients undergoing angioplasty."
Patients who received noetic therapies showed a 25 to 30 percent reduction in adverse outcomes (such as death, heart failure, post-procedural ischemia, repeat angioplasty or heart attack) than those without such therapies, according to the researchers. While increasingly popular outside of mainstream medicine, noetic therapies have not been widely studied with rigorous, scientific research methods. This study represents one of the first such efforts.
"We know patients are very interested in these types of treatments, particularly in the role spirituality and prayer play in their health and health care," added Krucoff. "To best understand how to respond to such widespread interest, we examined whether good, mainstream, fundamental research science could be applied to these areas."
One hundred and fifty patients with acute coronary insufficiency at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center were enrolled in the prospective, randomized study from April 1997 to April 1998. All were scheduled for invasive cardiac procedures based on their clinical needs. In a five-way randomization, all patients were assigned (in equal distribution) to coronary stenting with standard care or to coronary stenting plus one of the following therapies: guided imagery, stress relaxation, healing touch or intercessory prayer. Of the 120 patients assigned noetic interventions, 118 (98 percent) completed the therapeutic assignment.
Differences in clinical outcomes between treatment groups were not statistically significant. However, those receiving noetic treatments "had lower absolute complication rates and a lower absolute incidence of post-procedural ischemia during hospitalization," said Crater.
"These noetic interventions help a patient achieve a state of calm equilibrium, or homeostasis, which puts them in a better state to help in their own recovery process," said Jon Seskevich, a Duke nurse clinician, who along with Crater, designed the non-prayer interventional therapies. He further noted that those assigned to receive prayer appeared to fare even better than those receiving the other types of noetic treatments and the control group.