COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Scientists investigating why wounds heal more slowly on patients who are stressed have found that psychological stress can increase the levels of some hormones in the blood. These hormones can slow the delivery of certain compounds -- cytokines -- to the site of the injury to start the healing process.
But if the process is slowed at the beginning, the wound will take much longer to heal, posing potentially serious consequences to patients recovering from surgery.
This finding, reported in a recent issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is the latest clue to how psychological stress causes physiologic changes within the body, many of which can weaken a person's health.
"There is a lot in the medical literature suggesting, if possible, that a patient should not be under stress before surgery," explained Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University. "Stress, depression and anxiety prior to surgery have all been associated with poor surgical recovery."
The problem, she said, is that while physicians have known about this problem, they didn't understand exactly how stress could alter the healing process. This study was an attempt to identify clues to the cause.
Ronald Glaser, professor of medical microbiology and
immunology and lead author of the paper, and
Contact: Jan Kiecolt-Glaser
Ohio State University