Recognition and treatment of depression and anxiety symptoms in heart failure

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;11(3):103-9. doi: 10.4088/pcc.08m00700.


Objective: The aim of this prospective study was to examine the prevalence, recognition, and treatment of depression and anxiety in ambulatory patients with heart failure.

Method: A total of 158 heart failure participants were enrolled between November 2006 and April 2007. Each patient completed a telephone screening interview that included an assessment of heart-failure severity (New York Heart Assciation criteria) as well as measures for depression (Geriatric Depression Scale [GDS]) and anxiety (Geriatric Anxiety Inventory [GAI]). Following study recruitment, each patient's electronic medical record was comprehensively reviewed for the 12 months prestudy and 6 months poststudy assessments to determine whether patients had been recognized as having and/or treated for depression or anxiety.

Results: Prevalence of depression (GDS score ≥ 6) was 41.8%, and prevalence of anxiety (GAI score ≥ 9) was 25.3%. Of patients with a positive GDS or GAI result, 57.5% had a diagnosis or medical-record notation for depression and/or anxiety, and 60.3% received mental health treatment during the 18-month period of the EMR review. Of patients with a documented diagnosis of depression or anxiety, 92.3% received mental health treatment. Results showed that higher GDS scores were associated with recognition of depression/anxiety in the medical record, and a positive primary care depression screening predicted documented mental health treatment.

Conclusion: These data suggest that symptomatic depression and anxiety are underrecognized in heart failure patients and that mental health screening may be important for receipt of care. Notably, once depression and/or anxiety was documented in the medical record, patients were highly likely to receive mental health treatment.