Pharmaceutical interventions for emotionalism after stroke

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2019, 2019 (3)
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Copyright © 2019 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Background Antidepressants may be useful in the treatment of abnormal crying associated with stroke. This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2004 and last updated in 2010. Objectives To determine whether pharmaceutical treatment reduces the frequency of emotional displays in people with emotionalism after stroke. Search methods We searched the trial register of Cochrane Stroke (last searchedMay 2018). In addition, we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; to May 2018), MEDLINE (1966 to 14 May 2018), Embase (1980 to 14 May 2018), CINAHL (1982 to 14 May 2018), PsycINFO (1967 to 14 May 2018), BIOSIS Previews (2002 to 14 May 2018), Web of Science (2002 to 14 May 2018), WHO ICTRP (to 14 May 2018), (to 14 May 2018), and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database (to 14 May 2018). Selection criteria Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs comparing psychotropic medication to placebo in people with stroke and emotionalism (also known as emotional lability, pathological crying or laughing, emotional incontinence, involuntary emotional expression disorder, and pseudobulbar affect). Data collection and analysis Two review authors independently selected studies, assessed risk of bias, extracted data from all included studies, and used GRADE to assess the quality of the body of evidence.We calculated mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) for continuous data and risk ratio (RR) for dichotomous data with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). We assessed heterogeneity using the I2 statistic. The primary emotionalism measures were the proportion of participants achieving at least a 50% reduction in abnormal emotional behaviour at the end of treatment, improved score on Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale (CNS-LS), Clinician Interview-Based Impression of Change (CIBIC) or diminished tearfulness. Main results We included seven trials with a total of 239 participants. Two trials were of cross-over design, and outcome data were not available from the first phase (precross-over) in an appropriate format for inclusion as a parallel randomised controlled trial (RCT). Thus, the results of the review are based on five trials with 213 participants. Treatment effects were observed on the following primary endpoints of emotionalism: There is very low quality of evidence from one small RCT that antidepressants increased the number of people who had 50% reduction in emotionalism (RR 16.50, 95% CI 1.07 to 253.40; 19 participants) and low quality evidence from one RCT of improved scores on Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale (CNS-LS) and Clinician Interview-Based Impression of Change (CIBIC) with antidepressants (RR 1.44, 95% CI 0.95 to 2.19; 28 participants). There was moderate quality evidence from three RCTS that they increased the number of people who had a reduction in tearfulness (RR 2.18, 95% CI 1.29 to 3.71; 164 participants); and low quality evidence from one RCT of improved scores on the Pathological Laughter and Crying Scale (PLCS) (MD 8.40, 95% CI 11.56 to 5.24; 28 participants). Six trials reported adverse events (death) and found no difference between the groups in death (RR 0.59, 95%CI 0.08 to 4.50; 6 RCTs, 172 participants, moderate-quality evidence). Authors' conclusions Antidepressantsmay reduce the frequency and severity of crying or laughing episodes based on very lowquality evidence.Our conclusions must be qualified by several methodological deficiencies in the studies and interpreted with caution despite the effect being very large. The effect does not seem specific to one drug or class of drugs. More reliable data are required before appropriate conclusions can be made about the treatment of post-stroke emotionalism. Future trialists investigating the effect of antidepressants in people with emotionalism after stroke should consider developing and using a standardised method to diagnose emotionalism, determine severity and assess change over time; provide treatment for a sufficient duration and follow-up to better assess rates of relapse or maintenance and include careful assessment and complete reporting of adverse events.
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