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Traumatic brain injury and stroke are among the leading causes of neurological disability worldwide. Although dopaminergic agents have long been associated with improvement of neuropsychiatric outcomes, to date much of the evidence to date has been in case reports and case series or open label trials.
We undertook a systematic review of double-blinded randomised controlled trials (RCT) to determine the effect of dopaminergic agents on pre-defined outcomes of (a) apathy; (b) psychomotor retardation; (c) behavioural management and (d) cognitive function. Databases searched were: Medline, EMBASE, and PsychInfo for human studies. The Cochrane Clinical Trials Database and the TRIP Medical database were also searched. All identified studies, were further hand-searched.
We identified six studies providing data on 227 participants, 150 of whom received dopaminergic therapy. Trials were compromised by cross-over design, inadequate wash out period, small numbers and heterogeneous outcome measures. However one good quality RCT demonstrates the efficacy of amantadine in behavioural management. One further RCT shows methylphenidate-levodopa is efficacious for mood post-stroke. One study shows rotigotine to improve hemi-inattention caused by prefrontal damage.
Our systematic review demonstrates an evolving evidence base to suggest some benefits in agitation and aggression, mood and attentional deficits. However, there are key limitations of the studies undertaken to date involving small numbers of participants, heterogeneous outcome measures, and variable study designs. There is a need for on-going large prospective double-blind RCTs in these medications using standardised criteria and outcomes to fully understand their effectiveness in this patient group.
The anxiety disorders are a prevalent mental health problem in older age with a considerable impact on quality of life. Until recently there have been few longitudinal studies on anxiety in this age group, consequently most of the evidence to date has been cross-sectional in nature.
We undertook a literature search of Medline, PsycINFO, the Cochrane trials database and the TRIP medical database to identify longitudinal studies which would help elucidate natural history and prognosis of anxiety disorders in the elderly.
We identified 12 papers of 10 longitudinal studies in our Review. This represented 34,691 older age participants with 5,199 with anxiety disorders including anxious depression and 3,532 individuals with depression without anxiety. Relapse rates of anxiety disorders are high over 6 year follow-up with considerable migration to mixed anxiety-depression and pure depressive mood episodes. Mixed anxiety-depression appears to be a poorer prognostic state than pure anxiety or pure depression with higher relapse rates across studies. In community settings treatment rates are low with 7–44% of the anxious elderly treated on antidepressant medications.
To our knowledge this is the first Systematic Review of longitudinal trials of anxiety disorders in older people. Major longitudinal studies of the anxious elderly are establishing the high risk of relapse and persistence alongside the progression to depression and anxiety depression states. There remains considerable under-treatment in community studies. Specialist assessment and treatment and major public health awareness of the challenges of anxiety disorders in the elderly are required.
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