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Study finds high prevalence of PTSD in stroke patients


Almost one in four people who survive a stroke or transient ischemic attack suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within the first year post-event, and one in nine experiences chronic PTSD more than a year later, according to a study.

The data suggest that each year nearly 300,000 stroke/TIA survivors will develop PTSD symptoms as a result of their health scare, Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported June 19 on the website of the journal PLOS One.

“PTSD is not just a disorder of combat veterans and sexual assault survivors, but strongly affects survivors of stroke and other potentially traumatic acute cardiovascular events as well,” Ian M. Kronish, MD, MPH, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at CUMC, said in a news release.

“Surviving a life-threatening health scare can have a debilitating psychological impact, and healthcare providers should make it a priority to screen for symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD among these patient populations.”

The researchers performed what they said was the first meta-analysis of clinical studies of stroke- or TIA-induced PTSD. The nine studies in the meta-analysis included a total of 1,138 stroke or TIA survivors.

The study found that 23% of the patients developed PTSD symptoms within the first year after their stroke or TIA, with 11% experiencing chronic PTSD more than a year later.

“PTSD and other psychological disorders in stroke and TIA patients appear to be an under-recognized and undertreated problem,” Kronish said.

According to data from the American Stroke Association, nearly 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke, and up to an additional 500,000 suffer a TIA.

Common symptoms PTSD include nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic PTSD is defined as a duration of these symptoms for three months or longer.

“The next step is further research to assess whether mental health treatment can reduce stroke- and TIA-induced PTSD symptoms and help these patients regain a feeling of normalcy and calm as soon as possible after their health scare,” Donald Edmonson, PhD, MPH, the study’s first author and an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at CUMC, said in the news release.

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