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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Improves Depressive Symptoms, Quality of Life, and Heart Rate Variability in Patients with Heart Failure

Author(s): Chi-Wen Kao, Shu-Meng Cheng, Fang-Jung Wan, Wei-Shiang Lin, Yue-Cune Chang


Depression is a common co-morbidity in patients with heart failure. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been identified as an effective intervention for severe psychological distress.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of an EMDR intervention on depressive symptoms, health-related quality of life, and heart rate variability (HRV) in patients with heart failure.


For this longitudinal experimental study, 57 consecutive patients were randomly assigned to an experimental (n = 25, EMDR intervention) or control (n = 32, routine care) group through blocked randomization. Data were collected at four times (pre-intervention, postintervention, and one-month and three-month follow-up) and analyzed with the generalized estimating equation approach.


Most participants were male (57.9%), with a mean age of 63.14 ± 14.53 years and mean ejection fraction of 49.86 ± 15.18%. The majority of them were NYHA class II (n = 41, 71.9%) with a clinical history of hypertension (n = 38, 66.7%). Participants receiving the EMDR intervention showed significantly greater improvement in depressive symptoms (p < 0.001), health-related quality of life (p = 0.007), and High Frequency (HF) (p = 0.003), Low Frequency (LF) (p < 0.001), and LF/HF ratio (p = 0.001) in HRV at post-intervention compare with controls. Furthermore, the intervention effects were sustained at one month and three months after completion of the intervention.


The EMDR intervention may improve depressive symptoms, health-related quality of life, and HRV in patients with heart failure. The improvements can be maintained three months later.

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