Nine out of 10 young children with moderate to severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) continue to experience serious, often severe symptoms and impairment long after their original diagnoses and, in many cases, despite treatment, according to a federally funded multi-center study led by investigators at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The study, published online Feb. 11 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, is the largest long-term analysis to date of preschoolers with ADHD, the investigators say, and sheds much-needed light on the natural course of a condition that is being diagnosed at an increasingly earlier age.
"ADHD is becoming a more common diagnosis in early childhood, so understanding how the disorder progresses in this age group is critical," says lead investigator Mark Riddle, M.D., a pediatric psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. "We found that ADHD in preschoolers is a chronic and rather persistent condition, one that requires better long-term behavioral and pharmacological treatments than we currently have."
The study shows that nearly 90 percent of the 186 youngsters followed continued to struggle with ADHD symptoms six years after diagnosis. Children taking ADHD medication had just as severe symptoms as those who were medication-free, the study found.
Children with ADHD, ages 3 to 5, were enrolled in the study, treated for several months, after which they were referred to community pediatricians for ongoing care. Over the next six years, the researchers used detailed reports from parents and teachers to track the children's behavior, school performance and the frequency and severity of three of ADHD's hallmark symptomsinattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The children also had full diagnostic workups by the study's clinicians at the beginning, halfway through and at the end of the research.
Symptom severity scores did not differ significan
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Johns Hopkins Medicine