People with congenital heart disease more likely to get PTSD: Study

People with congenital heart disease more likely to get PTSD: Study

A large number of children are born with congenital heart disease (CHD), wherein normal flow of blood can get disrupted in the heart or blood vessels. It is present at birth and results from an abnormal development of the heart of the fetus during the initial phase of pregnancy.

Even though heart problems are the most common birth defects in the United States, they are identified or treated only when a child grows older. It has been observed that CHD affects the quality and way of life, with many undergoing psychological, educational and behavioral challenges.

A recent study has shown an association between CHD and higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), nearly one in five patients experienced PTSD symptoms, with about one in 10 patients having these symptoms associated with a heart condition.

PTSD episodes higher in people with congenital heart disease

The research, published in the American Journal of Cardiology in March 2016, was the first to analyze the symptoms of PTSD in adult patients with CHD. As part of the study, the researchers enrolled 134 patients with CHD and used two mental health scales that comprised questionnaire related to anxiety, depression and PTSD.

It was observed that of 134 patients who took up one scale, 27 (21 percent) exhibited symptoms of global PTSD, while of 127 patients who accomplished another scale, 14 patients (11 percent) experienced PTSD symptoms that were associated with their CHD.

Surprisingly, PTSD episodes in these patients were found to be significantly higher than those in the general population. Most notably, PTSD was found to be impacted by two factors, including a recent cardiac surgery – patients who had undergone cardiac surgery at an earlier year were more likely to have PTSD – and a sharp rise in depressive symptoms.

“The high prevalence of PTSD detected in these adult CHD patients has important clinical implications,” says Lisa X. Deng, CHOP’s Division of Cardiology. “We need to conduct more research to identify measures along the lifespan to support our patients and ensure that they have a good quality of life,” she added.

Other studies

A 2015 study, available on, found a link between depressive symptoms in patients with CHD. Using self-rating depression scales on 60 adolescent and adult patients admitted for regular evaluation, researchers found that 17 of them had depressive symptoms.

Cases of depressive symptomatology in patients with CHD is greater and is linked to poorer prognosis; hence, standardized screening tools and psychosocial interventions to improve the well-being of these patients should be a priority while treating such patients.

Another 2015 study, published in the BMH Medical Journal stated that children with CHD are likely to have more behavioral problems compared with those who don’t suffer from any chronic ailment. Researchers Janus and Goldberg analyzed children with chronic illnesses and found that children with CHD are more likely to face behavioral problems later. Treatment of behavioral problems in such children is important because they have higher chance of major depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse in future.

Making help available

Medication and psychotherapy are the most common methods of treating depression. When it comes to CHD patients, some may recover in just a few days of the treatment, while others may take more time. It is important for healthcare providers to be aware of the PTSD symptoms, including anxiety and depression, in CHD patients.

If you or your loved one is battling any form of mental illness, the Sovereign Mental Health Services is willing to help. Chat online with one of our experts or call at the 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 for further information.

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