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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 27, 2006

UI Professor Contributes To Report On Depression And Cardiac Care

Cardiovascular disease and depression are the two most prevalent causes of death and disability worldwide, and since they often affect patients in tandem, it is vital for health care practitioners to know how to diagnose accurately and treat effectively. A team of researchers from around the country, including a University of Iowa psychology professor, recently published recommendations that are expected to guide assessment and treatment of depression in cardiac patients for the foreseeable future.

Jerry Suls, professor of psychology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and 20 colleagues from around the country spent more than a year studying what is known about depression in cardiac patients, what remains a mystery and why previous studies have not produced definitive answers.

Convened by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, the group included cardiologists, epidemiologists, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and public health specialists.

They recommended specific "instruments" -- surveys designed to assess a patient's mental state -- be used in large scale clinical and epidemiological trials. Not only are the recommended instruments likely to be most effective, Suls said, but using them uniformly across disciplines and studies will allow for better comparison of data and outcomes.

The working group also recommended a large trial to study the effectiveness of behavior therapy, drug therapy or a combination in cardiac patients with depression.

"Bringing this group together helped to create consensus about assessment instruments to be used and treatment that might be most reasonable and effective," Suls said. "Perhaps the most critical element is the real recognition of the co-morbidity of the physical and psychological conditions."

The group's paper, "Assessment And Treatment Of Depression In Patients With Cardiovascular Disease: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Working Group Report," was published jointly by the journals "Psychosomatic Medicine" and "Annals of Behavioral Medicine." The joint publication, a somewhat unusual publishing decision, signals the recognition that the report should reach the broadest possible audience within the research community.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Jerry Suls, 319-335-0569,