Effectiveness of the nursing programme 'Coping with itch': a randomized controlled study in adults with chronic pruritic skin disease

H van Os-Medendorp, W J G Ros, P C M Eland-de Kok, C Kennedy, B H Thio, A van der Schuur-van der Zande, M H F Grypdonck, C A F M Bruijnzeel-Koomen
British Journal of Dermatology 2007, 156 (6): 1235-44

BACKGROUND: The nursing programme 'Coping with Itch' aims at reducing itch and at helping patients with chronic pruritic skin diseases cope with itch. The programme consists of educational and cognitive behavioural interventions. Dermatology nurses carry out the programme, which supplements standard medical treatment given by a dermatologist, in individual sessions at a nurse clinic organized by the dermatology outpatient department.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness of the nursing programme 'Coping with Itch' in patients with chronic pruritic skin diseases.

METHODS: A randomized controlled study was carried out. Patients with chronic pruritic skin diseases were randomly assigned to the intervention group or the control group. The intervention group received standard care from a dermatologist and nursing care according to the programme 'Coping with Itch' for a mean of 2.9 visits. The control group received usual care from a dermatologist. Data collection took place at baseline, at 3 months (t1) and at 9 months (t2) after baseline. Most visits to the nurse clinic took place during the first 3 months of the study. Main outcome measures were the frequency and intensity of itching and scratching, itch-related coping, and skin-related and general psychosocial morbidity. Secondary outcome measures were the number of visits to the dermatologist and the use of medication and ointments. Mann-Whitney tests and analyses of covariance were used to analyse differences between the two groups.

RESULTS: Data on 29 patients in the intervention group and 36 patients in the control group were used in the analyses. A trend to significance (P = 0.07) was shown in the difference between the two groups in the frequency of itching and scratching at t1. A significant difference (P = 0.04) was shown between the two groups in catastrophizing and helpless itch-related coping at t1. No significant differences were revealed at t2 between the groups. Patients in the intervention group visited the dermatologist significantly less frequently during the intervention period than did control group patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The nursing programme 'Coping with Itch' led to a reduction in the frequency of itching and scratching and to a reduction of catastrophizing and helpless coping in patients with chronic pruritic skin diseases during the period immediately following the intervention. We suggest further follow-up visits to the itch clinic to extend these results over a longer period.


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