Heart defects at birth may increase risk of PTSD later in life – WebMD

By Robert Preidt

health day reporter

FRIDAY, March 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Adults born with heart defects may be at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers say.

The reason? High levels of mental stress associated with their condition and their treatments, the study authors suggested.

The study included 134 adults born with heart defects, known as congenital heart disease (CHD). Investigators found that 11 to 21 percent of these adults had PTSD, depending on the method used to assess symptoms of the disorder.

By comparison, rates of PTSD are just 3.5% in the general population, the study authors noted. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after experiencing life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, or personal trauma.

The findings indicate that physicians and caregivers should watch for signs of PTSD in adult patients with congenital heart disease.

“Although life expectancy for adults with coronary artery disease has improved, ongoing care may include multiple surgeries and procedures,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Yuli Kim, a cardiologist at the Hospital. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in a press release from the hospital. Kim is also the director of the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center.

“These patients remain at risk for both cardiac and non-cardiac effects of their chronic disease and face unique stressors that may put them at high risk for psychological stress,” Kim explained.

The study was published in the March issue of American Journal of Cardiology.

Heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States. Surgical and medical advances mean there are more American adults living with birth defects than the number of children born with them each year, the researchers said.

Of the patients in the study with symptoms of PTSD, less than half were being treated for the disorder, the researchers said.

“We need to conduct more research to identify measures across the lifespan to support our patients and ensure they have a good quality of life,” said study corresponding author Lisa Deng, also from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in the press release.