Depression is such a common symptom after injury to the brain or spinal cord that antidepressant therapy has become almost compulsory. Although research on outcomes of antidepressant use after injury has been mixed, patients are still put on antidepressant therapy with a general belief that it will improve outcome.
However, a new study shows that antidepressant therapy after brain or spinal cord injury may actually interfere with recovery. When comparing antidepressant use in stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury patients, the study found that people who began antidepressant therapy in the rehabilitation unit had significantly longer stays than people who had not used antidepressants at all, or who had only used them for a short period in the acute stages of the injury.
The researchers suggest that the explanation for this surprising result may lie within the effects of the medication, and not the symptoms of depression itself. Patients who had depression, but who were not treated, stayed in the rehabilitation unit for shorter lengths of time than those who were treated.
Weeks DL, Greer CL, Bray BC, et al. Association of antidepressant medication therapy with inpatient rehabilitation outcomes for stroke, traumatic brain injury, or traumatic spinal cord injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. (May 2011).