Sunday, October 18, 2009

PTSD increases death risk for surgery

Post-Traumatic Stress May Raise Death Risks

SATURDAY, Oct. 17 -- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder face an increased risk for dying after surgery, even if the surgery is performed years after they have completed their service, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers analyzed data on 1,792 male veterans who had major non-cardiac, non-emergency surgeries between 1998 and 2008. Of that group, 129 (7.8 percent) had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) before their surgery.

Men with PTSD were an average of seven years younger than those without PTSD -- 59 versus 66 years old -- but were much more likely to have cardiac risk factors, the study noted.

One year after surgery, the death rate among men with PTSD was 25 percent higher than for those without PTSD -- 8.5 percent versus 6.8 percent. After the researchers adjusted for age and preexisting medical conditions -- including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and depression -- they found that veterans with PTSD were 2.2 times more likely to die within a year of surgery than those without PTSD.

The findings were scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, held Oct. 17 to 21 in New Orleans.

"This study is the first of its kind, with groundbreaking findings," the study's lead author, Dr. Marek Brzezinski, of the San Francisco VA Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco, said in a news release from the society. "The magnitude of the detrimental effect of PTSD diagnosis on postoperative mortality is unexpectedly large -- greater than that of diabetes, which is an established risk factor for patients undergoing surgery."

The results highlight "the need to consider potential treatments to help reduce risk in the veteran PTSD population, "Brzezinski said. "The number of veterans returning from our current conflicts with PTSD who require surgical treatment is expected to increase in the future."

PTSD affects 15 to 31 percent of Vietnam veterans and 20 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to background information in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.

Jerald Terwilliger, National Chairman

American Cold War Veterans, Inc