Depression in bypass surgery patients studied

School of Medicine researchers are seeking patients who have recently had coronary artery bypass graft surgery and are suffering from depression to participate in a research study.

“Clinical depression makes it harder for a person to recover, to enjoy life and to return to an active lifestyle,” said principal investigator Kenneth E. Freedland, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry. “It increases the risk of other problems after surgery, including memory impairment and inability to return to work. Recent studies have shown that depression also increases the risk of dying in the first year or two after bypass surgery.”

Freedland and his colleagues want to learn whether treating depression can reduce some of these medical risks. They are comparing cognitive behavior therapy, stress management and usual care for depression to determine which strategy is most effective.

“We know these therapies are effective in other depressed heart patients, but we don’t know how they work in patients who face the special difficulties that are unique to bypass surgery,” Freedland said.

His team is studying people who have had bypass surgery during the past one to 12 months and who have also been depressed for at least two weeks. Those who volunteer for the study will be evaluated for depression and memory problems and will have their heart rate, blood pressure and breathing tested.

Volunteers will be randomly selected to receive either 12 weeks of counseling or to continue with their usual care. During the study period, participants will be allowed to receive antidepressant prescriptions from their own physicians, but antidepressants will not be prescribed or dispensed by study personnel.

Study volunteers will have follow-up evaluations at three, six and nine months after their initial testing.

The testing sessions last about two hours. Counseling sessions take about one hour per week for 12 weeks.

All counseling and testing are free, and participants will be eligible for a cash stipend when they complete follow-up evaluations.

For more information, call study coordinator Angela Misuraco at 286-1314.

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