The journal *Psychosomatics* issued the following news release about a
study, “Pre-existing major depression predicts in-hospital cardiac
complications after acute myocardial infarction.”

Here’s the news release:

Depression Ups Risk of Complications Following Heart Attack

People who suffer from severe depression following a heart attack might
be more likely to experience cardiac complications while hospitalized,
according to a new study.

“There is good evidence that if a person has depression after a heart
attack, they are more likely to die from cardiac causes in the following
months and years,” said lead author Jeff Huffman, M.D., assistant
professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “No one had yet
studied whether depression impacts cardiac outcomes immediately after a
heart attack–the time we see the most complications.”

The study included 129 patients at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Within 72 hours of having a heart attack, each participant underwent an
interview to determine if he or she suffered from depression or anxiety.
Seventeen of the original group members had a diagnosis of major
depression lasting for at least two weeks.

The presence of major depression was a significant predictor of heart
rhythm problems, congestive heart failure or a second heart attack.

Anxiety did not affect the risk for any in-hospital complication.

“The results suggest that physicians should be especially mindful of
treating depression in patients with cardiac risk factors,” Huffman
said. “They also suggest close in-hospital monitoring of heart attack
patients with major depression given this increased risk for complications.”

Huffman noted that the study, which appears in the July-August issue of
the journal Psychosomatics, is a small, preliminary study. Most of the
participants were white males, so its findings might not apply to other

“What is surprising is that differences in outcomes were seen in a
relatively short time. The new observation is that risk for these bad
outcomes start while patients are still in the hospital,” said David
Bush, M.D., associate professor at The Johns Hopkins University School
of Medicine and Heart Institute.

“The separation between heart disease, typically managed by
cardiologists and internists, and mental disease, typically managed by
psychiatrists, is not as great as many seem to think.” Bush said.
“Physicians and patients should be sensitive to this and work on
treating depression in addition to controlling diabetes, lowering blood
pressure and lowering cholesterol.”

Psychosomatics, the official journal of the Academy of Psychosomatic
Medicine, publishes peer-reviewed research and clinical experiences in
the practice of medical-surgical psychiatry. For information about the
journal, contact Ted Stern, M.D., at

Huffman JC, et al. Pre-existing major depression predicts in-hospital
cardiac complications after acute myocardial infarction. Psychosomatics
49(4), 2008.