Improving the Odds for Stroke Survivors

Antidepressants may help reduce death rate, small study finds

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FRIDAY, Oct. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Giving antidepressants to stroke survivors -- whether they're depressed or not -- may improve their chances of living longer.

That startling finding comes from a University of Iowa study in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study included 104 stroke patients randomly assigned to receive nortriptyline (Aventyl or Pamelor), fluoxetine (Prozac) or a placebo for three months after their stroke. The researchers examined patient death data nine years later.

About 68 percent of the 53 patients who received all three months of antidepressants were alive after nine years, compared with about 36 percent of the 28 patients who took the placebo for the same amount of time.

When they analyzed the causes of death, the researchers found that patients who took the antidepressants were less likely to die from cardiovascular problems (30 percent) than those who took the placebo (nearly 55 percent).

Since it was a small study, it has to be considered preliminary. Even so, the findings are significant, study co-investigator Dr. Ricardo Jorge, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says in a prepared statement.

"The study implications are impressive, because they indicate patients with stroke may benefit from prevention strategies that use antidepressants to improve recovery and also reduce mortality," Jorge says.

"The findings also are important when you take into account that post-stroke depression is so frequent," he adds.

About one in five stroke survivors develops major depression.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stroke.

SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Center, news release, Sept. 29, 2003

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