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Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders in Rheumatic Fever With and Without Sydenham’s Chorea

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(7):994-999

Background: Recent findings suggest that acute-phase rheumatic fever (RF) patients present with higher frequencies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders. Until now, there have been no such studies in RF in non-acute phases.

Objective: To verify whether patients with a history of RF with or without Sydenham's chorea (SC) present with higher rates of OCD, tic disorders, and other obsessive-compulsive (OC) spectrum disorders (such as body dysmorphic disorder [BDD]) than controls.

Method: Between February 1999 and December 2002, 59 consecutive outpatients with non-acute RF (28 with and 31 without SC) from an RF clinic and 39 controls from an orthopedics clinic were blindly assessed for OC spectrum disorders using structured interviews to assign DSM-IV diagnosis. Data were analyzed with Fisher exact and chi2 tests to compare frequencies of disorders, and Kaplan-Meier survival analyses were used to obtain age-corrected rates.

Results: The age-corrected rates of tic disorders were higher in patients with RF without SC (N = 3; 14.39%) (p = .003) when compared with controls. Age-corrected rates for OC spectrum disorders (OCD, tic disorders, and BDD) combined were higher both in RF without SC (N = 4; 20.65%) and RF with SC (N = 5; 19.55%) groups than in controls (N = 1; 2.56%) (p = .048).

Conclusions: RF, even in the non-acute phase, may increase the risk for some OC spectrum disorders, such as OCD, tic disorders, and BDD. These data, although preliminary, reinforce the idea that OC spectrum disorders may share common underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms and vulnerability factors with RF or that RF could trigger central nervous system late manifestations such as OC spectrum disorders.

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