Patients Prone to Depression Get Worse ER Treatment?


According to a new Canadian study, patients with a history of depression appeared to get worse or lower priority treatment in emergency rooms than those who have no such history.

The analysis, which incorporated data from 6,874 heart attack patients that were admitted to 96 hospitals in the province of Ontario, noted that those who had a lengthy history of depression appeared to not get as timely of treatment or response as the individuals who did not have any history of the disorder. Apparently, of the patients included with a history of depression, 39 percent were assigned low priority triage scores in emergency departments compared to 32 percent of other heart attack patients.

Further, heart attack patients with depression appeared to also get delayed in diagnostic testing more often.

"Interestingly, other components of the medical history, including the traditional cardiac risk factors of diabetes, smoking, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, were not associated with triage score in the models; only depression affected the score," wrote Dr. Clare Atzema, of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, and colleagues

Several theories as to why this occurs were offered up.

"We suspect that mistriage of these patients is not due to purposeful discrimination by emergency department staff, but rather that most emergency department staff are unaware of data that suggests a link between depression and coronary artery disease," the researchers wrote.

The study ran from April 2004 to March 2005, and the results appear in the latest version of Canadian Medical Association Journal.  

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