Washington: Patients treated with a short course of antidepressants after a stroke have significantly greater improvement in physical recovery than patients treated with a placebo, a University of Iowa study has found.
It is the first to demonstrate that this physical recovery continues to improve for at least nine months after the antidepressant medication is stopped.
"The idea that antidepressants might benefit early recovery from stroke has been around for a couple of years," said Robert Robinson, UI professor and senior study author.
"But one major question left unanswered by previous studies was ``does the effect last after the medication stops?``
"What our study demonstrates is that not only does the beneficial effect last, but the improvement in physical recovery continues to increase even after the patients stop taking the medication,” added Robinson.
The study found that both depressed and non-depressed stroke patients who received antidepressant medication had greater physical recovery after stroke than patients who received placebo.
In addition, the effect compared to placebo was observed even after controlling for patients` age, total hours of rehabilitation therapy and initial severity of stroke.
In the study, 83 patients who had recently had a stroke were randomly assigned to receive antidepressants (54 patients) or placebo (29 patients) for three months.
The patients` physical, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms were assessed every three months for one year. Thirty-six of the patients who received antidepressants and 25 of the patients on placebo completed the one-year study.
Using a global measure of overall physical and motor disability, the researchers showed that antidepressants significantly reduced physical disability over the one-year period compared to placebo.
The study is detailed in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Feb. 24.