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cardiac rehabilitation, heart disease, qualitative, sexual assessment and counseling, sexual dysfunction



  1. D'Eath, Maureen MSc
  2. Byrne, Molly PhD
  3. Doherty, Sally PhD
  4. McGee, Hannah PhD
  5. Murphy, Andrew W. MD


Background: Sexual dysfunction is a problem for some patients with cardiovascular disease. This study was the final phase of the Cardiac Health and Assessment of Relationship Management and Sexuality (CHARMS) study of sexual function, assessment, and counseling for people with coronary heart disease in Ireland.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of patients, cardiac rehabilitation staff, and general practitioners on the provision of sexual assessment and counseling within Irish health services and how it can be optimized.


Methods: Group interviews with cardiac rehabilitation staff (n = 14) and patients (n = 13) and telephone interviews with general practitioners (n = 9) were conducted. The interviews were semistructured, digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using qualitative, descriptive analysis.


Results: All 3 stakeholder groups reported that the problem of sexual dysfunction among cardiac patients was an important issue that was underaddressed in practice. Patients want the issue to be addressed in an explicit way throughout and after the rehabilitation process by confident and knowledgeable professionals. Cardiac rehabilitators widely acknowledged the role that they could play in the provision of sexual assessment and counseling, but many were constrained by a perceived lack of knowledge and confidence. Most cardiac rehabilitation staff would welcome relevant guidelines and training. General practitioners were unlikely to initiate a discussion about sexual dysfunction; however, most were confident that patients would be comfortable in raising it. General practitioners would welcome more awareness raising but did not identify a need for specific training or resources.


Conclusions: Perspectives differed both across and within stakeholder groups about current services and the development of future services. A disconnect exists between the service that the professionals perceive they give and that experienced by patients. Sexual assessment and counseling should be addressed more explicitly, and patients should be empowered to seek individual assessment and counseling at a time that is appropriate for them.