Pilot Study of Secondary Prevention of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder With Propranolol

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Jan 15;51(2):189-92. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(01)01279-3.

Abstract

Background: Preclinical considerations suggest that treatment with a beta-adrenergic blocker following an acute psychologically traumatic event may reduce subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. This pilot study addressed this hypothesis.

Methods: Patients were randomized to begin, within 6 hours of the event, a 10-day course of double-blind propranolol (n = 18) versus placebo (n = 23) 40 mg four times daily.

Results: The mean (SD) 1-month Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) score of 11 propranolol completers was 27.6 (15.7), with one outlier 5.2 SDs above the others' mean, and of 20 placebo completers, 35.5 (21.5), t = 1.1, df = 29, p =.15. Two propranolol patients' scores fell above, and nine below, the placebo group's median, p =.03 (sign test). Zero of eight propranolol, but six of 14 placebo, patients were physiologic responders during script-driven imagery of the traumatic event when tested 3 months afterward, p =.04 (all p values one-tailed).

Conclusions: These pilot results suggest that acute, posttrauma propranolol may have a preventive effect on subsequent PTSD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Adult
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Propranolol / adverse effects
  • Propranolol / therapeutic use*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology

Substances

  • Propranolol