Serum 3-Hydroxybutyrate in Patients with Psychogenic Somatoform Symptoms May Be a Predictor of the Effectiveness of Sertraline and Venlafaxine

Int J Gen Med. 2021 May 10;14:1785-1795. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S300517. eCollection 2021.


Background: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are often used to treat outpatients with psychogenic somatoform symptoms but prove ineffective in some cases. The metabolite 3-hydroxybutyrate (3HB) is currently attracting attention as a marker of the severity of depression. We investigated whether serum 3HB levels in patients with psychogenic somatoform symptoms can predict the effectiveness of sertraline and venlafaxine.

Patients and methods: Physical and psychiatric problems were assessed in 132 outpatients, and symptomatic response and serum 3HB concentrations were examined before and after treatment with sertraline (50 mg/day) or venlafaxine (75 mg/day).

Results: In 30.3% of patients with psychogenic symptoms, serum 3HB was above the upper limit of normal (<80 μmol/L). According to multiple logistic regression analysis, only episodes of suicidal ideation showed a significant positive association with elevated 3HB (odds ratio 10.2; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.46-42.2). The sensitivity of 3HB for the effectiveness of sertraline or venlafaxine for psychosomatic symptoms was 44.6%, but specificity was 93.9%. Hierarchical multiple logistic regression analysis identified 3HB as a better predictor of the effectiveness of medication (odds ratio 10.0; 95% CI, 2.49-40.3) than episodes of suicidal ideation.

Conclusion: The present findings suggest that high serum 3HB levels in patients with psychogenic somatoform symptoms may be associated with suicidal ideation and the effectiveness of sertraline and venlafaxine at low to intermediate doses. The 3HB level may be a good predictor of the effectiveness of medication. Examination of serum 3HB levels may lead to earlier and more appropriate administration of sertraline and venlafaxine.

Keywords: 3-hydroxybutyrate; psychogenic somatoform symptoms; sertraline; venlafaxine.