By Michael Smith, MedPage Today Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 5 (MedPage Today) - Even if spouses usually get along well, the stress caused by a half-hour argument can slow healing of a surgical wound by as much as a day, researchers here reported.
If they are generally hostile, the delay in wound healing can be doubled, according to Ronald Glaser, Ph.D., and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., both of Ohio State here.
One implication of the finding, reported in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is that marital stress plays an important role in recovery from surgery, Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser said.
"This shows why it is so important that people be psychologically prepared for their surgeries," she added.
Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser said the study, combined with previous work, suggests that "hospitals need to modify existing practices in ways that will reduce stress prior to surgery."
Reducing pre-surgical stress, both researchers said, would lead to shorter hospital stays, lower medical bills, and a reduced risk of nosocomial infection.
With colleagues, the researcher recruited 42 married couples, who had been married on average for 12.5 years, and admitted them to Ohio State's general clinical research center for two 24-hour visits, separated by two months.
At each visit, both members of the couple were subjected to eight small wounds, using a suction blister device. The epidermis roofing the blisters was removed and a plastic template with eight wells was taped over the wounds.