The purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of escitalopram compared to placebo in
reducing Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) symptoms and in preventing the emergence of
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in patients with medical trauma who are at risk for
the development of PTSD based on the presence of ASD symptoms.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a relatively common, distressing and disabling
condition that may occur after trauma related events including injury. The emergence of
Acute Stress Disorder shortly after the trauma appears to be a strong predictor of who will
later develop PTSD (Brewin et al., 1999). Although SSRIs are commonly administered in
general medical practice and have been demonstrated effective for the treatment of PTSD,
there has not been systematic study of their use for the treatment of ASD, ASD symptoms, or
the prevention of PTSD, and this study represents one of the first attempts to
systematically evaluate their use for this indication.
Sixty study participants (for 30 randomized) will be drawn from patients admitted to the
Massachusetts General Hospital medical/surgical inpatient units for a traumatic injury that
occurred in the prior 3 weeks. Study participants must meet criteria for the A1, A2 and at
least one additional category of Acute Stress Disorder symptoms (i.e., B, C and or D
criteria), as determined by the Acute Stress Disorder Interview upon initial evaluation, to
qualify for randomization in a 12 week, double-blind flexible-dose treatment trial of
escitalopram (10-40 mg/d) versus placebo.
- Male or female outpatients at least 18 years of age with a primary (the condition
that is most central to the patient's current distress) symptoms of Acute Stress
Disorder as defined by DSM-IV criteria: A1, A2 and at least one additional category
of Acute Stress Disorder symptoms (i.e., B, C and or D criteria).
- Patients must have had a medical trauma (even if fully resolved or minor) within the
prior 3 weeks resulting in admission to the emergency room and/or inpatient hospital
as part of their acute trauma resulting in ASD symptoms.
- Patients will be excluded from entry into the study for current serious medical
instability such as hemodynamic compromise, or serious head injury resulting in
impaired mental status. Patients with a history of medical instability associated
with their traumatic injury will be allowed study entry once the problem has resolved
(as long as resolves within 3 weeks of trauma as per inclusion criteria).
- Patients with a trauma resulting in head injury related seizures, or with epilepsy
(except a prior history of febrile seizures of infancy which are not exclusionary).
- Pregnant or lactating women or those of childbearing potential not using medically
accepted forms of contraception will be excluded.
- Concurrent use of other antidepressants, with the exception of trazodone < 100mg/day
for sleep, or amitriptyline in doses ≤ 50 mg daily for pain. Patients may remain on
concomitant benzodiazepines (<2 mg/d clonazepam or its equivalent), or sleep aids
(i.e., trazodone, zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata)) as long as the drug therapy
was initiated at 1 week prior to randomization; the dose will be held constant
through the study, and will be controlled for in the analysis.
- Lifetime diagnosis of schizophrenia or any other psychosis, mental retardation,
organic mental disorders, bipolar disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating
disorders, cutting or other significant self-injurious behavior, or alcohol/substance
abuse disorders within the last 3 months are study exclusions. Patients with a
current primary diagnosis of major depression, dysthymia, social anxiety disorder,
panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are excluded; thus, the presence of
these disorders is permissible as long as the ASD symptoms constitute the predominant
- Patients with a history of hypersensitivity or prior poor response to escitalopram
- Concurrent dynamic or supportive psychotherapy is permitted as long as it has been
ongoing for at least 1 month prior to onset of study entry.
- Patients with a positive toxicology screen at baseline consistent with evidence of
current substance abuse or dependence as determined by clinical interview.