PTSD Heightens Post-Heart Event Mortality Rates
> 11/13/2008 3:10:17 PM

Post-traumatic stress does not only stem from personal tragedies, accidents and natural disasters. PTSD may also emerge after one’s body undergoes a great physical strain like that caused by “heart events” such as stroke, heart attack, coronary complications or cardiac arrest. The period immediately following a major cardiovascular event (particularly its first year) is crucial to a victim’s eventual survival and recovery. And PTSD’s adverse effects counteract the body’s ability to repair related damages. Some of the standard symptoms (anxiety, inactivity, depression, fear) arise as a natural response to a near-death experience, but when they cross the line from legitimate concerns about one’s own well-being and enter the realm of diagnosable disorder, they can seriously curtail the likelihood of a successful recovery.

A recent German study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry examined the five-year treatment trajectories of 211 subjects who’d suffered major heart events requiring the insertion of a cardiac defibrillator (a common device that serves to monitor the heart rate and, in cases of irregular rhythms, use mild electric shocks to return the heart to its normal speed). Researchers determined that PTSD symptoms led to higher mortality rates throughout the subject pool. After controlling for age, gender and other variables, researchers noted that diagnosably traumatized patients were more than twice as likely to die in the 5 years following their initial operation and that this trend held true regardless of the initial event’s severity. The intensity of PTSD symptoms was also directly related to subsequent mortality rates; the statistical likelihood of death within five years corresponded directly with the level of reported symptoms. It would appear that PSTD, especially in its extreme forms, hobbles the functions of a damaged cardiovascular system, weakens the body's crucial systems and increases the chances of heart failure and death.

The German study only concerned individuals who’d received cardiac defibrillators, but its results make clear that severe PTSD can complicate the recovery process for a damaged cardiovascular system. We have no doubt that heart failure can be more immediate and dramatic for those who already need artificial stimulation in order to maintain heart functions, but these fatal heart failures originated in the bodies of the victims, not in their defibrillators. One absolutely essential conclusion can be drawn from this study: individuals who’ve recently survived heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular events should immediately consider PTSD screening – for their own good. Researchers stress the importance of “psychosocial aftercare,” meaning that personal therapy sessions or medications may be deemed necessary as long as they don’t interfere with any concurrent treatments. The longer affected patients wait, the greater the chance that their symptoms could negatively affect their chances of survival and recovery. 

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy