BACKGROUND: Fear of death (FoD) is an exceptionally stressful symptom of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), which received little scientific attention in recent years. We aimed to describe the prevalence and factors contributing to FoD among STEMI patients and assess the impact of FoD on prehospital delay.
METHODS: This investigation was based on 592 STEMI patients who participated in the Munich Examination of Delay in Patients Experiencing Acute Myocardial Infarction (MEDEA) study. Data on sociodemographic, clinical and psycho-behavioral characteristics were collected at bedside. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with FoD.
RESULTS: A total of 15% of STEMI patients reported FoD (n = 88), no significant gender difference was found. STEMI pain strength [OR = 2.3 (1.4-3.9)], STEMI symptom severity [OR = 3.7 (2-6.8)], risk perception pre-STEMI [OR = 1.9 (1.2-3.2)] and negative affectivity [OR = 1.9 (1.2-3.1)] were independently associated with FoD. The median delay for those who experienced FoD was 139 min compared to 218 min for those who did not (p = 0.005). Male patients with FoD were significantly more likely to delay less than 120 min [OR = 2.11(1.25-3.57); p = 0.005], whereas in women, this association was not significant. Additionally, a clear dose-response relationship between fear severity and delay was observed. Male FoD patients significantly more often used emergency services to reach the hospital (p = 0.003).
CONCLUSIONS: FoD is experienced by a clinically meaningful minority of vulnerable STEMI patients and is strongly associated with shorter delay times in men but not in women. Patients' uses of emergency services play an important role in reducing the delay in male FoD patients.