The Sunnybrook Stroke Study: A Prospective Study of Depressive Symptoms and Functional Outcome

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Background and Purpose

To assess the prevalence of depressive symptoms, their clinical correlates, and the effects of depressive symptoms on stroke recovery, a relatively unselected, well-diagnosed cohort of consecutive stroke survivors was followed prospectively.


Consecutive admissions to a regional stroke center who met World Health Organization and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke criteria for stroke were eligible. Subarachnoid hemorrhage and brain stem strokes were excluded. Patients underwent CT, single-photon emission CT, and standardized neurological and cognitive examinations at entry. At 3 months and 1 year after stroke, depressive symptoms were assessed with the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS). Functional outcome was measured with the Functional Independence Measure, and handicap was assessed by the Oxford Handicap Scale.


We assessed 436 patients at entry (mean +/- SD age, 74.9 +/- 11.6 years). There were 150 patients available for assessment at 3 months and 136 at 1 year. Marked depressive symptoms were noted in 22% (SDS) to 27% (MADRS) at 3 months and 21% (SDS) to 22% (MADRS) at 1 year. Patents with marked depressive symptoms had more neurological impairment (P<.008), were more likely to be female (P<.05), and were more likely to have previous histories of depression (P<.03). There was no relationship between depressive symptoms and age, lesion volume, or side of lesion. Depressive symptoms were correlated with functional outcome (r=-.31, P<.0001) and handicap (r=.41, P<.0001) at 3 months and 1 year (r=-.28, P<.001; r=.35, P<.0001).


Depressive symptoms and functional outcome are correlated. In view of the prevalence of depressive symptoms in this population, diagnosis and treatment of depression are important in optimizing recovery. (Stroke. 1998;29:618-624.)

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