Background: Both the lesion location hypothesis and the vascular depression hypothesis have been proposed to explain the high incidence of depression in stroke patients. However, research studying both hypotheses in a single cohort is, at present, scarce.
Objective: To test the independent effects of lesion location (left hemisphere, anterior region) and of co-occurring generalized vascular damage on the development of depression in the first year after ischemic stroke, while other risk factors for depression are controlled for.
Methods: One hundred and ninety consecutive patients with a first-ever, supratentorial infarct were followed up for one year. CT was performed in the acute phase of stroke, while in 75 patients an additional MRI scan was also available. Depression was assessed at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after stroke using self-rating scales as screening tools and the SCID-I to diagnose depression according to DSM-IV criteria.
Results: Separate analyses of the lesion location hypothesis and the vascular depression hypothesis failed to reveal significant support for either of these biological models of post-stroke depression. Similar negative results appeared from one overall, multivariate analysis including variables of both focal and generalized vascular brain damage, as well as other non-cerebral risk factors. In addition, level of handicap and neuroticism were independent predictors of depression in this cohort, as has been reported previously.
Conclusion: This study supports neither the lesion location nor the vascular depression hypothesis of post-stroke depression. A biopsychosocial model including both premorbid (prior to stroke) vulnerability factors, such as neuroticism and (family) history of depression, as well as post-stroke stressors, such as level of handicap, may be more appropriate and deserves further study.