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Antidepressants May Hasten Bypass Recovery, Study Finds
Date:5/1/2013

WEDNESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Depression is relatively common in patients who undergo heart bypass surgery, and a new study finds that short-term use of antidepressants may aid patients' recovery.

"Depression among patients requiring or having undergone [bypass] surgery is high and can significantly impact postoperative recovery," said one expert not connected to the study, Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chairman of the department of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

In this study, a team of French researchers looked at 182 patients who started taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant two to three weeks before undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery and continued taking it for six months after the procedure.

SSRIs include widely used antidepressants such as Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. In this study, patients took one 10 milligram tablet of Lexapro (escitalopram) daily. The study was funded by Lexapro's maker, H Lundbeck A/S.

The outcomes of patients prescribed Lexapro were compared to 179 patients who took an inactive placebo instead of the antidepressant.

During the six months after the surgery, the patients who took the antidepressant reported less depression and better quality of life than those who took the placebo, the researchers reported.

In addition, taking antidepressants did not increase the risk of complications or death in the year after surgery, according to the study, which appears in the May issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The study suggests that taking the antidepressant "enables patients who were at least slightly depressed before surgery for coronary artery disease to feel better more quickly after surgery, without influencing the complication rate," study leader Dr. Sidney Chocron said in a journal news release.

"Even slight depression before coronary surgery can delay a patient's mental
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