Interventions for preventing depression after stroke

Review question

Do pharmacological, psychological, non-invasive brain stimulation or a combination of these interventions prevent depression and improve outcomes after stroke?

Background

The role of interventions for preventing depression after stroke is unclear. Depression is a common and important complication of stroke that is often missed or poorly managed. Little is known about whether prevention strategies started early after stroke will reduce the risk of depression and improve recovery for those not depressed at assessment.

Search date

We identified trials using searches conducted on 13 August 2018.

Study characteristics

We included trials which reported on the use of pharmacological and psychological interventions to prevent depression after stroke. Average age of participants ranged from 55 to 73 years. Trials were from Asia (3), Europe (8), North America (5), and Australia (3).

Key results

We included 19 trials (12 pharmacological and seven psychological) involving 1771 participants. Outcome information was available for nine pharmacological and two psychological trials, which suggested that these treatments might reduce the risk of developing depression. A smaller number of studies (eight pharmacological and five psychological studies) found no increase in death or adverse events.

Certainty of evidence

We rated the certainty of evidence as very low due to limitations in study design.

Conclusion

Our ability to generalise these findings to all stroke survivors is limited due to the small proportion of survivors who were eligible to participate in these clinical trials. More well-designed clinical trials are needed that test practical interventions for preventing depression across all stroke survivors.

Authors' conclusions: 

The available evidence suggests that pharmacological interventions and psychological therapy may prevent depression and improve mood after stroke. However, there is very low certainty in these conclusions because of the very low-certainty evidence. More trials are required before reliable recommendations can be made about the routine use of such treatments after stroke.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Depression is an important consequence of stroke that influences recovery yet often is not detected, or is inadequately treated. This is an update and expansion of a Cochrane Review first published in 2004 and previously updated in 2008.

Objectives: 

The primary objective is to test the hypothesis that pharmacological, psychological therapy, non-invasive brain stimulation, or combinations of these interventions reduce the incidence of diagnosable depression after stroke. Secondary objectives are to test the hypothesis that pharmacological, psychological therapy, non-invasive brain stimulation or combinations of these interventions reduce levels of depressive symptoms and dependency, and improve physical functioning after stroke. We also aim to determine the safety of, and adherence to, the interventions.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Specialised Register of Cochrane Stroke and the Cochrane Depression Anxiety and Neurosis (last searched August 2018). In addition, we searched the following databases; Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CENTRAL (the Cochrane Library, 2018, Issue 8), MEDLINE (1966 to August 2018), Embase (1980 to August 2018), PsycINFO (1967 to August 2018), CINAHL (1982 to August 2018) and three Web of Science indexes (2002 to August 2018). We also searched reference lists, clinical trial registers (World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP); to August 2018 and ClinicalTrials.gov; to August 2018), conference proceedings; we also contacted study authors.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing: 1) pharmacological interventions with placebo; 2) one of various forms of psychological therapy with usual care and/or attention control; 3) one of various forms of non-invasive brain stimulation with sham stimulation or usual care; 4) a pharmacological intervention and one of various forms of psychological therapy with a pharmacological intervention and usual care and/or attention control; 5) non-invasive brain stimulation and pharmacological intervention with a pharmacological intervention and sham stimulation or usual care; 6) pharmacological intervention and one of various forms of psychological therapy with placebo and psychological therapy; 7) pharmacological intervention and non-invasive brain stimulation with placebo plus non-invasive brain stimulation; 8) non-invasive brain stimulation and one of various forms of psychological therapy versus non-invasive brain stimulation plus usual care and/or attention control; and 9) non-invasive brain stimulation and one of various forms of psychological therapy versus sham brain stimulation or usual care plus psychological therapy, with the intention of preventing depression after stroke.

Data collection and analysis: 

Review authors independently selected studies, assessed risk of bias, and extracted data from all included studies. We calculated mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) for continuous data and risk ratio (RR) for dichotomous data with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We assessed heterogeneity using the I2 statistic and assessed the certainty of evidence using GRADE.

Main results: 

We included 19 RCTs (21 interventions), with 1771 participants in the review. Data were available for 12 pharmacological trials (14 interventions) and seven psychological trials. There were no trials of non-invasive brain stimulation compared with sham stimulation or usual care, a combination of pharmacological intervention and one of various forms of psychological therapy with placebo and psychological therapy, or a combination of non-invasive brain stimulation and a pharmacological intervention with a pharmacological intervention and sham stimulation or usual care to prevent depression after stroke. Treatment effects were observed on the primary outcome of meeting the study criteria for depression at the end of treatment: there is very low-certainty evidence from eight trials (nine interventions) that pharmacological interventions decrease the number of people meeting the study criteria for depression (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.68; 734 participants) compared to placebo. There is very low-certainty evidence from two trials that psychological interventions reduce the proportion of people meeting the study criteria for depression (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.94, 607 participants) compared to usual care and/or attention control.

Eight trials (nine interventions) found no difference in death and other adverse events between pharmacological intervention and placebo groups (RR 1.25, 95% CI 0.32 to 4.91; 496 participants) based on very low-certainty evidence. Five trials found no difference in psychological intervention and usual care and/or attention control groups for death and other adverse events (RR 1.18, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.91; 975 participants) based on very low-certainty evidence.

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