The effect of pleasant olfactory mental imagery on the incidence and extent of atelectasis in patients after open heart surgery

Masoud Rezaei-Nodehi, Seyed Afshin Shorofi, Masoumeh Bagheri-Nesami, Rahman Ghafari, Jamshid Yazdani-Charati, Manizheh Darbeheshti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and purpose Atelectasis is the most common pulmonary complication after open heart surgery. This study was intended to examine the effects of pleasant olfactory mental imagery on postoperative atelectasis in patients undergoing open heart surgery. Materials and methods This is a randomized controlled clinical trial. The sample consisted of 80 patients who were randomly assigned to either practice olfactory mental imagery (test group) or receive routine care (control group). A card with the image of roses was given to patients and they were asked to look at the image, visualize the scent of roses in the mind, and then sniff as much as possible, hold their breath for 2 s and eventually exhale slowly through the nose. This procedure was consecutively repeated five times. After a fifteen-minute break, patients proceeded to practice olfactory mental imagery with other fruit images (banana, apple, and lemon). The test group executed the olfactory mental imagery for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon on postoperative days 1 and 2. The control group received the routine ICU care. A questionnaire collected information on sociodemographic characteristics and clinical parameters. Chest radiographs were used to diagnose atelectasis, which were evaluated by the hospital radiologist. Results No statistically significant differences were observed between the two groups regarding sociodemographic, medical and surgical information. The incidence of atelectasis in the test group (40%, n = 16) was significantly lower than in the control group (67.5%, n = 27) on postoperative day 2 (p = 0.02). Conclusion Our findings suggest that olfactory mental imagery can improve respiratory function and reduce the risk of atelectasis in patients with cardiac surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-37
Number of pages5
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Atelectasis
  • Heart surgery
  • Mental imagery
  • Olfactory imagery


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