Background: Depression is the most common psychological problem in the chronic dialysis population. The diagnosis of depression in patients on chronic dialysis is confounded by the fact that several symptoms of uraemia mimic the somatic components of depression. It affects their physical, psychological and social well-being. Furthermore, the frequent occurrence of cardiovascular problems and the pharmacokinetic consequences of renal impairment may make drug treatment of depression difficult.
Objectives: The aim of this systematic review was to assess the efficacy and safety of physical measures in the treatment of depression in patients who are dialysed for end-stage renal disease.
Search strategy: A comprehensive search strategy was employed to identify all Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) relevant to the treatment of depression in patients on chronic dialysis. The following database were searched - MEDLINE (1966-March 2004), EMBASE (1980-March 2004), PSYCHINFO (1872-March 2004), The Cochrane Library (Issue 1, 2004). Authors of included studies were contacted, reference lists of identified RCTs and relevant narrative reviews were screened.
Selection criteria: RCTs comparing drugs with placebo or no treatment, or a comparison of drugs against a combination of electroconvulsive therapy and drugs.
Data collection and analysis: Data were abstracted by two investigators independently onto a standard form and subsequently entered into Review Manager 4.2. Relative risk (RR) for dichotomous data and a (weighted) mean difference (WMD) for continuous data were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).
Main results: Only one trial, with a total of 12 patients and of eight weeks duration was identified. The trial compared fluoxetine against placebo in depressed patients on chronic dialysis. This study did not show any significant difference in depression scores between the treatment and control groups or safety.
Authors' conclusions: Firm conclusions on the efficacy of physical methods of treatment cannot be made as we identified only one small RCT that was of short duration. More larger and longer term RCTs are needed in this area. Current screening tools for depression are recognised to have poor specificity in the medically ill due to overlap of somatic symptoms of the medical illness. The development of a valid diagnostic tool would be helpful.