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An Open-Label, 12-Week Clinical and Sleep EEG Study of Nefazodone in Chronic Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62:789-796

Background: We examined the effects of nefazodone on polysomnographic sleep measures and subjective reports of sleep quality and nightmares, as well as other symptoms, in patients with chronic combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a 12-week, open-label clinical trial. To our knowledge, this is the first polysomnographic study of treatment in patients with PTSD.

Method: The subjects were 12 male veterans (mean age = 54 years) who met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD (mean duration = 30 years). All but 1 patient also met DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder. Patients were evaluated weekly with clinical ratings in an open-label clinical trial. Polysomnographic recordings for 2 consecutive nights were obtained before treatment and at 2, 4, 8, and 12 weeks. The dose of nefazodone was adjusted according to individual clinical needs. Final mean daily dose was 441 mg.

Results: The patients reported significantly fewer nightmares and sleep problems during treatment. Nevertheless, contrary to studies in depressed patients, nefazodone did not significantly affect polysomnographic sleep measures compared with baseline. In addition, the patients showed significant improvement in the Clinical Global Impressions of PTSD symptoms (global score, hyperarousals and intrusions subscales), the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (global, hyperarousal, and intrusions subscales), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

Conclusion: These patients with chronic, treatment-resistant, combat-related PTSD showed significant improvement of subjective symptoms of nightmares and sleep disturbance, as well as depression and PTSD symptoms, in this 12-week open-label clinical trial. Nevertheless, objective polysomnographic sleep measures did not change. Further studies, including double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, are needed to extend these findings and to understand the relationships between the physiology of sleep and symptoms of poor sleep and nightmares.