Screening, referral and treatment for depression in patients with coronary heart disease


Screening, referral and treatment for depression in patients with coronary heart disease

In 2013, the National Heart Foundation published a position statement on the evidence for depression in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). The statement also provided a statement on the recommended screening and treatment options for depression in patients with CHD. The prevalence of depression is high in patients with CHD and it has a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life and adherence to therapy, and an independent effect on prognosis. Rates of major depressive disorder of around 15% have been reported in patients after myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass grafting. However, the diagnosis of depression can be difficult in people with cardiovascular disease, as depressive symptoms such as fatigue and low energy are common to both CHD and heart failure, and may also be a side effect of some drugs used to treat cardiovascular disease, such as β-blockers.


The case for routine screening

In summary, the position statement emphasised the importance of recognising depression in patients with CHD. Routine screening for depression in all patients with CHD is indicated at first presentation, and again at the next follow-up appointment. A follow-up screen should occur 2–3 months after a CHD event. Screening should then be considered on a yearly basis, as for any other major risk factor for CHD. A simple tool for initial screening, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) or the short-form Cardiac Depression Scale (CDS), can be incorporated into usual clinical practice with minimum interference, and may increase uptake of screening.


Appropriate referral

Patients with positive screening results may need further evaluation. Appropriate treatment should be commenced, and the patient monitored. If screening is followed by comprehensive care, depression outcomes are likely to be improved.



Patients with CHD and depression respond to cognitive behaviour therapy, collaborative care, exercise and some drug therapies in a similar way to the general population. However, tricyclic antidepressant drugs may worsen CHD outcomes and should be avoided.

Coordination of care between health care providers is essential for optimal outcomes for patients. The benefits of treating depression include improved quality of life, improved adherence to other therapies and, potentially, improved CHD outcomes.


The above is an extract from the paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The full article can be accessed here.


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