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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 00:23 GMT
Heart patients 'benefit from prayer'
Research shows prayer has a beneficial effect
Patients admitted to hospital with heart problems suffer fewer complications if someone prays for them, according to scientists in the US.

The study, carried out at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, found that patients who received alternative therapy following angioplasty were 25% to 30% less likely to suffer complications.


Some of the greatest scientific achievements have come from those who step outside of the box

Dr Harold Koenig
And those who received "intercessory prayer" had the greatest success rate.

The study, carried out between April 1997 and April 1998, involved 150 patients who had all undergone angioplasty - whereby a balloon is positioned in a hardened and narrowed artery and inflated to force it open.

This procedure was followed in all cases by coronary artery stenting - which involves a flexible mesh tube being inserted into the artery to keep it open.

Alternative therapy

Patients were chosen randomly to receive coronary stenting with standard care or coronary stenting plus one of four alternative therapies - guided imagery, stress relaxation, healing touch or intercessory prayer.

Intercessory prayer was provided by seven prayer groups of varying denominations around the world.

Neither the researchers nor the patients were aware who was being prayed for but the results showed that, of all the therapies, prayer appeared to have the greatest therapeutic benefits.

Suzanne Crater, a nurse practitioner and co-director of the study, said the clinical outcomes between treatment groups were not significantly different but those receiving alternative therapies "had lower absolute complication rates and a lower absolute incidence of post-procedural ischemia during hospitalisation."

Complications after angioplasty include death, heart failure, post-procedural ischemia, repeat angioplasty or heart attack.

Outside the box

Dr Harold Koenig, associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, said: "Some of the greatest scientific achievements have come from those who step outside of the box and I believe that is what this study does.

"The results tend to lean toward prayer helping people but more study is needed."

Janet Holloway, the UK prayer coordinator for the Evangelical Alliance - which represents more than one million evangelical Christians in the UK - said that other studies had shown prayer linked to a positive effect.

She said: "We'd welcome the finding - many doctors are involved with alternative therapies - and you could call prayer an alternative.

"There are lots of people who are doing this for patients in UK hospitals - lots of prayer networks and people simply praying for their local hospital and the patients in it.

"There are even some doctors and other health professionals we know who use prayer - often without telling the patient - as part of their healing practice."

See also:

04 Sep 01 | Health
Heart op clot risk warning
05 Jun 00 | Health
Prayer 'works as a cure'
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