Antidepressant May Benefit Traumatic Brain Injury

The prevalence and functional effects of depressive disorder following traumatic brain injury are significant. Now, sertraline may be effective for preventing depressive symptoms after TBI.

A group of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine evaluated 94 patients aged 18 to 85 years who had been hospitalized for mild, moderate, or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most of the patients (n=92) were Caucasian and more than half (n=56) were male. The research team randomized the patients to receive either 100 mg daily of sertraline (48 patients) or placebo (46 patients) for 24 weeks or until symptoms of a mood disorder occurred.

Overall, sertraline was effective at preventing the onset of depressive symptoms compared to placebo. Sertraline was also well tolerated  and adverse effects in both treatment groups were mild. It is unclear how long the effects of sertraline last in this patient group.

The incidence of TBI is rising and it now is a major cause of death and disability. TBI can occur from injury, stroke, falls, motor vehicle accidents, and violence. People suffering moderate to severe TBI are at risk for depression and loss of life roles. Life satisfaction declines in this population, so prevention of depressive symptoms is imperative for maintaining health and function.

Sertraline, an antidepressant, has been used to treat PTSD but its effects in TBI are still being defined. The results of the study, which were published in JAMA Psychiatry, need to be confirmed with larger sample sizes and in multicenter trials. Further, a question remains if combining sertraline with cognitive behavioral interventions will optimize long-term outcomes.


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Jorge RE, Acion L, Burin DI, Robinson RG. Sertraline for preventing mood disorders following traumatic brain injury. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2189

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Image via aloisiocostalatge / Pixabay.

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.
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