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Depression doubles risk of death after bypass surgery

DURHAM, N.C. In the largest and longest study of its kind, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have definitively shown what previous studies have hinted at depression is a strong independent risk factor for death in patients who have undergone coronary artery bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the heart.

Because depression appears to double the chances of death, the researchers believe that bypass surgery patients should be screened to assess a patient's likelihood of depression.

The findings of the Duke team's study were published in the August 23, 2003, issue of the journal Lancet. The study was supported by numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health.

In analyzing the medical records of more than 800 patients who underwent bypass surgery at Duke, the researchers found that those patients with moderate to severe depression at the time of their surgery -- or those with mild depression prior to surgery that persisted for at least six months following surgery -- were more than twice as likely to die during the follow-up period. Some patients were followed as long as 12 years after surgery, with the average follow-up being 5.2 years.

"Despite our advances in surgical and medical management of patients after coronary artery bypass surgery, depression is an important independent predictor of death after surgery and should be carefully monitored and treated if necessary," said clinical psychologist James Blumenthal, Ph.D., lead author on the Lancet article. "We believe that psychological assessment before and after surgery could be a low-cost and relatively easy way of potentially saving lives."

Because bypass surgery, which has been performed for more than 30 years, has been so successful in saving lives, past studies with small samples have had so few deaths that it has been difficult for researchers to make statistically significance conclusions. However, the Duke researchers have been collecting clin
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Contact: Richard Merritt
merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
21-Aug-2003


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