Objective: Since improved prediction of illness course early in bipolar disorder is required to guide treatment planning, the authors evaluated recovery, first recurrence, and new illness onset following first hospitalization for mania.
Method: Bipolar disorder patients (N=166) were followed 2-4 years after their first hospitalization for a manic or mixed episode to assess timing and predictors of outcomes. Three aspects of recovery were measured: syndromal (DSM-IV criteria for disorder no longer met), symptomatic (Young Mania Rating Scale score </=5 and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score </=8), and functional (regaining of premorbid occupational and residential status). Rates of remission (syndromal recovery sustained >/=8 weeks), switching (onset of new dissimilar illness before recovery), relapse (new episode of mania within 8 weeks of syndromal recovery), and recurrence (new episode postremission) were also assessed.
Results: By 2 years, most subjects achieved syndromal recovery (98%, with 50% achieving recovery by 5.4 weeks); 72% achieved symptomatic recovery. Factors associated with a shorter time to syndromal recovery for 50% of the subjects were female sex, shorter index hospitalization, and lower initial depression ratings. Only 43% achieved functional recovery; these subjects were more often older and had shorter index hospitalizations. Within 2 years of syndromal recovery, 40% experienced a new episode of mania (20%) or depression (20%), and 19% switched phases without recovery. Predictors of mania recurrence were initial mood-congruent psychosis, lower premorbid occupational status, and initial manic presentation. Predictors of depression onset were higher occupational status, initial mixed presentation, and any comorbidity. Antidepressant treatment was marginally related to longer time to recovery and earlier relapse.
Conclusions: Within 2-4 years of first lifetime hospitalization for mania, all but 2% of patients experienced syndromal recovery, but 28% remained symptomatic, only 43% achieved functional recovery, and 57% switched or had new illness episodes. Risks of new manic and depressive episodes were similar but were predicted by contrasting factors.