Adjunctive restorative therapies administered during the first few months after stroke, the period with the greatest degree of spontaneous recovery, reduce the number of stroke patients with significant disability.
To examine the effect of escitalopram on cognitive outcome. We hypothesized that patients who received escitalopram would show improved performance in neuropsychological tests assessing memory and executive functions than patients who received placebo or underwent Problem Solving Therapy.
One hundred twenty-nine patients were treated within 3 months following stroke. The 12-month trial included 3 arms: a double-blind placebo-controlled comparison of escitalopram (n = 43) with placebo (n = 45), and a nonblinded arm of Problem Solving Therapy (n = 41).
Change in scores from baseline to the end of treatment for the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) and Trail-Making, Controlled Oral Word Association, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale–III Similarities, and Stroop tests.
We found a difference among the 3 treatment groups in change in RBANS total score (P < .01) and RBANS delayed memory score (P < .01). After adjusting for possible confounders, there was a significant effect of escitalopram treatment on the change in RBANS total score (P < .01, adjusted mean change in score: escitalopram group, 10.0; nonescitalopram group, 3.1) and the change in RBANS delayed memory score (P < .01, adjusted mean change in score: escitalopram group, 11.3; nonescitalopram group, 2.5). We did not observe treatment effects in other neuropsychological measures.
When compared with patients who received placebo or underwent Problem Solving Therapy, stroke patients who received escitalopram showed improvement in global cognitive functioning, specifically in verbal and visual memory functions. This beneficial effect of escitalopram was independent of its effect on depression. The utility of antidepressants in the process of poststroke recovery should be further investigated.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00071643