June 21, 2012

PTSD Doubles Risk of Future Cardiac Event and Death

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Each year, about 1.4 million people in the United States experience an acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Numerous studies have suggested that ACS induced PTSD is common and a meta-analysis of 24 studies shows 1 in 8 heart patients suffer from PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder initiated by exposure to a traumatic event such as combat, disaster, or sexual assault. Common symptoms include nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. The study conducted by Columbia University found heart patients who suffer PTSD face twice the risk of having another cardiac event or of dying within one to three years.

"While most people think of PTSD as a disorder of combat veterans and sexual assault survivors, it is also quite common among patients who have had a severe coronary event," lead author Donald Edmondson, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at CUMC, was quoted saying. "Not only are such events life-threatening, but their psychological impact can be devastating and long lasting."

To get a better idea of the scope of the problem, Dr. Edmondson and his colleagues performed the first combined review, or meta-analysis, of clinical studies of ACS-induced PTSD. The 24 studies in the meta-analysis included a total of 2,383 ACS patients from around the globe.

The study found that overall 12 percent, or one in eight, of the patients developed clinically significant PTSD symptoms, with four percent meeting full diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

"This is a serious problem for individual patients, as well as for the healthcare system as a whole," Dr. Edmondson was quoted saying. "PTSD appears to double a heart patient's risk for a second cardiac event and for death, which adds hundreds of millions of dollars to annual health expenditures."

He says the next step is further research to assess whether treatment can reduce ACS-induced PTSD symptoms and reduce the associated risk for ACS recurrence and mortality.

Source: PLoS ONE, June 2012