Antidepressants in the ICU

Antidepressant use could increase mortality risk factors in patients with serious illness

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) In conjunction with other serious illnesses, antidepressant use may not be as safe as previously thought. A new study scratches the surface of possible risk factors with antidepressant use.

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge crunched numbers and came up with a few concerning statistics about patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) that were also on antidepressants.

"Make sure all of your doctors know your medications."

According to Katherine M. Berg MD, one of the doctors who helped with the research on the study, “We found that mortality was higher overall for patients taking antidepressants prior to admission to the ICU and remained significantly higher a year later. We also found that certain subgroups of patients, particularly patients admitted for cardiac problems, appeared to be at even greater risk.”

The research team looked at the records of 10,568 people that either died in the hospital or within a year of being in the ICU.  Of the 10,568 patients, 1,876 were on either serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) or serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) at the time of their admission to the ICU.

These patients were 73 percent more likely to die either in the hospital or during the first year following their time in the ICU than patients not taking these antidepressant medications.

Patients who had heart problems like acute coronary syndrome or cardiac surgery were in the highest risk pool, which was double the amount of other patient groups.

Being on antidepressants didn’t seem to affect all groups that were admitted to the ICU. Sepsis patients did not have a higher death rate while on antidepressants like the cardiac patients did.

This study isn’t enough to go on to make a definitive statement that antidepressants shouldn’t be taken by chronically ill heart patients.

More research will need to be done on the topic in order to fully understand all of the factors involved.

This research will be presented via lecture “Pre-Admission Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Is Associated with ICU Mortality” at the American Thoracic Society 2012 International Conference in San Francisco on May 22, 2012.

No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
May 20, 2012
Last Updated:
July 31, 2012