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Post-Operative Depression in Heart Patients

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treatments for heart patients with post-operative depression Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Thinkstock

For heart patients, post-operative depression can become a most unwelcome complication of heart surgery.

Approximately 20 percent, or 1 in 5, of all heart patients fall victim to depression after undergoing heart surgery.

Unfortunately, a bout of post-operative depression is much more serious than just a bad case of the blues. Post-operative depression in heart patients is linked to prolonged emotional and physical recovery and reduced quality of life.

It’s also associated with post-operative complications and is an indicator of greater risk of future cardiac events or death from a cardiac event.

In addition, depression in post-operative heart patients is linked to cognitive problems such as memory impairment or the ability to think and learn.

However, for post-operative heart patients suffering from depression, there is hope. According to results from a new study, post-operative heart patients may benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT and supportive stress management.

Led by Kenneth Freedland, Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, researchers followed 123 post-operative heart patients who experienced some type of depression within one year of heart surgery.

All participants in the study had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG, surgery. For the study participants were divided into three groups, each receiving different types of care as follows:

1. Group 1 – Traditional Care

Of the 123 study participants, 40 participants underwent traditional post-operative care supervised by physicians.

2. Group 2 - CBT

A second group of 41 participants received CBT. Cognitive behavior therapy is a common type of therapy used with people suffering from a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sleep disorders, phobias, personality disorders, or substance abuse.

It’s also widely used to help people cope with the stress associated with illnesses, grief, or some other type of trauma. The goal of CBT is to help patients respond in a more effective manner to situations which are difficult or challenging.

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