Residual Symptoms After Treatment for Depression in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease

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Abstract

Objective

Depression is associated with an increased risk of mortality in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). The risk may be reduced in patients who remit with adequate treatment, but few patients achieve complete remission. The purpose of this study was to identify the symptoms that persist despite aggressive treatment for depression in patients with CHD.

Methods

One hundred twenty-five patients with stable CHD who met the DSM-IV criteria for a moderate-to-severe major depressive episode completed treatment with cognitive behavior therapy, either alone or combined with an antidepressant, for up to 16 weeks. Depression symptoms were assessed at baseline and after 16 weeks of treatment.

Results

The M (SD) Beck Depression Inventory scores were 30.0 (8.6) at baseline and 8.3 (7.5) at 16 weeks. Seventy seven (61%) of the participants who completed treatment met remission criteria (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression ≤7) at 16 weeks. Loss of energy and fatigue were the most common posttreatment symptoms both in remitters (n = 44, 57%; n = 34, 44.2%) and nonremitters (n = 42, 87.5%; n = 35, 72.9%). These symptoms were not predicted by baseline depression severity, anxiety, demographic, or medical variables including inflammatory markers or cardiac functioning or by medical events during depression treatment.

Conclusions

Fatigue and loss of energy often persist in patients with CHD even after otherwise successful treatment for major depression. These residual symptoms may increase the risks of relapse and mortality. Development of effective interventions for these persistent symptoms is a priority for future research.

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