Check for Depression ‘Prior to’ Discharging Heart Patients Hospitals Warned

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A depression management programme can make a major difference for heart patients suffering from depression in the wake of major surgery, according to a new study. Whilst it is a known that those who encounter major surgery such as heart surgery have proven to show increased symptoms of anxiety and depression in the recuperating period, this is the first study that has outlined a resolution.

“This is important because depression is common in heart disease patients, and it has been linked to more re-hospitalisations and higher death rates,” said the lead author of the study lead Dr. Jeff C. Huffman. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

He claims that the bulk of cardiac patients see their depression untreated as a result of non diagnosis, during their hospital stay. Dr. Huffman, who is also the director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is adamant that there are benefits that can be made to the patient by diagnosis. He believes that were a program implanted, such as that which the new study is based on, it will help the patient on two fronts. He claims it will help them in the treatment of their heart disease, and the depression which has been proven to impair recovery.

The recommendation by the American Heart Association on this front, is that depression screening takes place. Dr. Huffman has noted that under normal circumstances, even when a diagnosis of depression is made at this point the only intervention taken under normal circumstances is a recommendation to seek medical health treatment. He proposes in the new study that an integrated approach be taken, a coordinated treatment where the depression management is not limited to outpatient scenarios.

The study took in data collected from 175 persons who had been treated for acute coronary syndrome, or other heart complaints like heart failure and arrhythmia. Taking these patients on the time line where they were about to be discharged, they were screened in the study for depression. A random assignment of the patients was located to different programs at this point. Standard care and a newly developed depression management program were the varying assignments made.

In the Depression Management Programme the patients who were assigned were given individualised treatment recommendations, a referral to therapy, and/or a prescription with care managers acting as facilitators. These non doctor facilitators could provide educational material on the condition, and even assisted in the booking of what were described in the study as ‘pleasurable activities.’ The coordination of such treatments was made in line with the doctor’s and psychiatrist’s recommendations.

The net results were remarkable in many ways. For those of the 175 who took part in the developed depression management program, depression symptoms were cut in half for close to 60%. That was after six weeks, whilst after a three month period the figures showed an even further symptom reduction.

The positive effects tail off, it appears over time however. Six months after discharge, three months in the wake of the treatment  the ‘depression symptoms’ comparison between the two groups were more closely in line. Now the rate of rehospitalisation was similar for those in the study who had taken part in the two separate treatment methodologies. Diet and exercise regimes were however more likely to have been ‘stuck to’ by they participants in the coordinated programme, leading to an overall improvement in health and diminished cardiac problems.

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