One in eight people who suffer a heart attack or other acute coronary event experience clinically significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a meta-analysis of 24 studies led by Columbia University Medical Center researchers. The study also shows that heart patients who suffer PTSD face twice the risk of having another cardiac event or of dying within one to three years, compared with those without PTSD. The findings were published today in the online edition of PLoS ONE (note: the paper will be available online once the embargo lifts: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038915).
"While most people think of PTSD as a disorder of combat veterans and sexual assault survivors, it is also quite common among patients who have had a severe coronary event," said lead author Donald Edmondson, PhD, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at CUMC. "Not only are such events life-threatening, but their psychological impact can be devastating and long lasting."
PTSD is an anxiety disorder initiated by exposure to a traumatic event such as combat, disaster, or sexual assault. Common symptoms include nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the event, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
Each year, about 1.4 million people in the United States experience an acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a term used to describe any condition brought about by sudden reduced blood flow to the heart. Numerous small studies have suggested that ACS-induced PTSD is common and can have serious health consequences, but its prevalence is not known.
To get a better idea of the scope of the problem, Dr. Edmondson and his colleagues performed the first combined review, or meta-analysis, of clinical studies of ACS-induced PTSD. The 24 studies in the meta-analysis included a total of 2,383 ACS patients from around the globe.
The study found that overall 12 percent, or one in eight, of the patients developed clinically significant PTSD symptoms, with four percent meeting full diagnostic criteria for the disorder.