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Original Research

Preventing Depression After Stroke: Results From a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial

Osvaldo P. Almeida, MD, PhD; Anna Waterreus, GradDipClinEpid; and Graeme J. Hankey, MD

Published: July 14, 2006

Article Abstract

Objective: We designed this study to determine whether the daily treatment of nondepressed acute stroke patients with sertraline reduced the incidence of depression at follow-up.

Method: 111 patients with recent stroke (< 2 weeks; International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision criteria) were randomly assigned to treatment with placebo (N = 56) and sertraline (N = 55, 50 mg once daily) in this double-blind, placebo-controlled 24-week clinical trial. Subjects were recruited from the 2 largest teaching hospitals of Western Australia between June 2002 and June 2004. The primary endpoint of interest was development of clinically significant depressive symptoms as assessed by a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-depression subscale score of 8 or above, or as diagnosed by the treating physician during 24 weeks.

Results: There was no significant difference in the incidence of depressive symptoms during 24 weeks of treatment (16.7% [8/48] sertraline vs. 21.6% [11/51] placebo, rate ratio = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.3 to 2.1, p = .590). The trial medication was discontinued by 51.8% (29/56) of patients assigned placebo and 47.3% (26/55) assigned sertraline (p = .634), most often because of perceived side effects or because the treating physician introduced an antidepressant medication.

Conclusions: Twenty-four-week treatment with 50 mg of sertraline once daily initiated within 2 weeks of onset of acute stroke is not a significantly more effective strategy to prevent 6-month depression than usual care plus placebo among nondepressed stroke patients. New pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic strategies need to be developed to reduce the health and financial burden associated with depression after stroke.

Volume: 67

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