Few studies have described the treatment or outcome of depression in specialized mood disorders units (MDUs). Previous studies have focused on cohorts of patients with highly treatment-resistant illness who are likely to have a poor prognosis even with intensive treatment. This study describes the treatment and medium-term outcomes of a cohort of first-admission depressed patients with less treatment-resistant illness treated in a specialized MDU.
A cohort of 137 consecutive first-admission depressed patients, referred to an MDU over 2 years, were interviewed using standardized schedules and followed up prospectively from admission for ∼18 months to describe baseline characteristics, treatment, outcome, and predictors of outcome. Times to recovery and recurrence were evaluated using survival analyses and predictors of outcome were examined using bivariate and multivariate regression analyses.
On admission, 75% of the 137 patients had depression that had been found to be resistant to pharmacological treatment, and 34% had been chronically depressed (>2 y). Over half of the patients had likely maladaptive personality traits and one third had at least 1 comorbid psychiatric disorder. By discharge, a significantly higher proportion of the patients were being prescribed very high (P<0.01) or high doses (P<0.05) of antidepressants, augmentation therapy (P<0.001), or a combination of antidepressants (P<0.001) or were engaged in individual psychotherapy (P<0.001), compared with baseline. With intensive treatment, 62% of the patients recovered by 6 months and 76% by 12 months, with 83% overall recovering and patients found to be asymptomatic during almost 60% of the follow-up period. However, 48% suffered a recurrence over the course of the follow-up. Chronicity of mood episodes (P<0.01) and the presence of psychiatric comorbidity (P<0.05) predicted recurrence.
This prospective, naturalistic, medium-term study describes better outcomes, in terms of recovery and symptomatology over time, in a cohort of first-admission depressed patients than previous first-admission studies after continuous, intensive treatment, although the proportion of patients who experienced recurrences remained high.