Study: These people should take antidepressants
Stroke survivors could get a lift from the use of antidepressants like Prozac, but not in the way you may be thinking. These types of medications could enhance motor skill recovery and get patients up and moving sooner rather than later.
According to a French study, stroke patients who were prescribed antidepressants early in their recovery and underwent physiotherapy showed enhanced motor skills after three months when compared to those who received physiotherapy and a placebo.
The study examined patients who had suffered an acute ischemic stroke within the previous 5-10 days that resulted in muscular weakness or partial paralysis. Patients suffering from depression already were not included in the study group.
“One of the most critical things we count on for recovery after any neurological injury is plasticity of the nervous system,” says Dr. Trisha Summerlin, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “It’s the ability to re-learn tasks that we have been doing since infancy. In order to re-learn tasks, the part of the brain that is still healthy has to make new connections to carry the signals that used to be managed by the injured part of the brain.”
Antidepressants like fluoxetine (used in the study) act by keeping neurotransmitters from being destroyed so that there are more neurotransmitters available for the brain to use to make new connections.
“If there is not enough neurotransmitter to make new connections, the effort to learn is often frustrated or blocked so that recovery is not as good,” says Dr. Summerlin. “Sometimes, we need to look beyond the common labels for medications and think about how they work to see the value in using these medications for neurological recovery even if the patient has a great mood and attitude.”
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.