FRIDAY, March 16, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Among people with coronary stents, depression was linked to a 1.5 times greater risk of death during a seven-year study period, researchers found.
A coronary stent is a small, metal mesh tube placed in a coronary artery to keep it open. Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart.
The study included 1,234 coronary-artery-disease patients in the Netherlands with an average age 62, who underwent assessment for depression six months after receiving a coronary stent. Depression was diagnosed in 324 of the patients (26 percent).
After seven years of follow-up, 187 of the patients had died, including 23 percent of the patients with depression and 12 percent of the patients without depression.
The researchers found that gender and age were factors in the increased risk, with men and older patients significantly more likely to die during the study. Patients with diabetes also were at greater risk.
The use of cholesterol-lowering statins was associated with a reduced risk of death among study participants, however.
The findings were slated for presentation Friday at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"The main finding is that patients who are depressed after coronary stenting have a worse prognosis," lead author Nikki Damen, a Ph.D. student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said in a news release. "They die earlier than non-depressed patients."
One possible reason for the increased risk of earlier death is that depressed patients may have less healthy lifestyles in terms of smoking, drinking alcohol, exercise and diet. They also may be less likely to take their medication, the study authors suggested in the news release.
Or it could be that depression alters the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate, the researchers said.
"More research is needed to determine how to screen for depression in cardiovascular patients, and then how to provide treatment," Damen said.
Although the study uncovered an association between depression in patients with stents and risk of earlier death, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. In addition, the data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about coronary stents.