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Prodromal Symptoms of Relapse in a Sample of Egyptian Schizophrenic Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(10):729-736

Background: Schizophrenic patients and family members often retrospectively report having observed a number of nonpsychotic symptoms and/or certain alterations in behavior that they believe preceded any psychotic symptoms and behavior. The identification of possible relapse before its actual occurrence and the timely intervention in management are expected to spare both patient and family the suffering and pain of a full schizophrenic episode. The aim of this study was to determine if prodromal symptoms could be used as valid predictors of relapse in schizophrenic disorders and the relative diagnostic values of these symptoms in a sample of Egyptian schizophrenic patients.

Method: One hundred Egyptian patients with schizophrenic disorders (DSM-III-R criteria) that had recently relapsed were retrospectively assessed for prodromal symptoms in the month preceding relapse. They were compared with 2 control groups, 50 Egyptian nonrelapsing schizophrenic patients and 50 healthy Egyptian individuals.

Results: Nonpsychotic symptoms were the most common prodromal symptoms occurring in relapsing patients. A significant difference in frequency of prodromal symptoms was found for relapsing patients versus nonrelapsing patients (p < .001) and healthy controls (p < .05). Prodromal symptoms appear to have a relatively specific value for predicting subsequent psychotic symptoms in those subjects who previously experienced such symptoms.

Conclusion: Clusters of nonspecific prodromal symptoms exist that significantly differentiate between relapsing, nonrelapsing, and healthy controls. Fine-tuning of the identification of these symptoms could be a plausible clinical tool to be used by psychiatrists and general practitioners alike to predict a possibility of an impending relapse.