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Recent Study Indicates That Strokes and PTSD Are Closely Linked

Posted on Aug 16, 2012

The results of a study examining the relationship between strokes and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were released in July 2012. According to the study, stroke survivors are more likely to develop PTSD—and having PTSD can increase the chances of problems with prescription drug adherence in these patients.

Both PTSD and strokes are potentially disabling conditions.

The study, conducted by Dr. Ian Kronish, of Columbia University Medical Center, and his colleagues, revealed that 67 percent of the patients studied who received a diagnosis of PTSD after suffering a stroke were less likely to take their medications as prescribed. 

The team’s report was published in the August 2012 issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. The findings include the following:

  • Growing evidence points to a link between PTSD and “acute, life-threatening medical events.”
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and strokes are common triggers for developing PTSD; both are “sudden, uncontrollable events.”
  • PTSD and depression often go hand in hand, and not taking medication (or taking it incorrectly) is linked to depression.
  • Of the participants in the study who were nonadherent with their medication, twice as many patients with PTSD were nonadherent as compared with patients who did not have PTSD.

The conclusion the researchers reached was that the results “suggest that not only is PTSD common after strokes and TIAs, but that PTSD may be putting stroke/TIA survivors at increased risk for recurrent cerebrovascular events [strokes] as a result of decreased medication adherence.”

Minority, female, and unmarried study participants, along with those who were unable to work, were most likely to have acquired PTSD. These same groups also had higher scores on a clinical test for depression.

Kronish and the research team were quick to note that no causal relationship could be determined based on the study results and that the findings may not apply to all populations.

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John L. Keefe
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