Anti-depressants could help stroke patients recover more quickly by 'rebuilding' the brain
Drugs could promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain or protect other cells damaged by strokeAnd by preventing depression, they may encourage more patients to be physically active
00:07 GMT, 6 December 2012
Anti-depressants could help recovery after a stroke – even in patients who are not depressed, research suggests.
The drugs could reduce dependence, physical disability, depression and anxiety in the first year after a stroke, according to the study published by the Cochrane Library.
They could also promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain or protect other cells damaged by stroke, the authors suggest.
The drugs could promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain or protect other cells damaged by stroke
And by preventing depression they may encourage more patients to be physically active.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh examined 52 studies concerning selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Professor Gillian Mead, professor of stroke and elderly care medicine at the university, said: 'Anti-depressants have been successfully used for many years to relieve depression.
'However, it now appears that they also have effects on the brain that may help patients make a better recovery from the physical effects of stroke.
'The results of this meta-analysis are extremely promising. We do not yet fully understand how anti-depressants could boost recovery after stroke, but it may be because they promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, or protect cells damaged by stroke.'
She added that by preventing depression, the drugs may help patients to be more physically active which is known to aid overall recovery.
'We now need to carry out a number of much larger clinical trials in order to establish exactly if, how and to what extent antidepressants can help stroke survivors recover.'
Commenting on the research, Dr Dale Webb, director of research and information at the Stroke Association, said: 'There are now over a million people living in the UK with the disabling effects of stroke.
'With death rates from stroke declining, it’s increasingly important to find new treatments to help survivors make their best possible recovery.
'The results of this meta-analysis are very encouraging and highlight the need for further clinical research trials.
'If these trials are positive, antidepressants could reduce the disabling effects of stroke in tens of thousands of patients every year.
'However, we are a long way off this type of treatment being offered to stroke patients to reduce the physical effects of the condition. We look forward to the results of further research.'