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Up to 50 per cent of people who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) go on to develop some form of depression in the 10 years following the injury.

Image of several brain scans with a hand using a pen to point to one of them © Shutterstock

A group of researchers including the University of Oxford's Dr Vanessa Raymont, have launched a study to investigate whether a mild anti-depressant called sertraline could reduce the incidence of post traumatic brain injury depression (PTD).

Up to 50 per cent of people who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) go on to develop some form of depression in the 10 years following the injury, impairing their physical and mental recovery and quality of life. People with depression following a traumatic brain injury tend to die earlier than the rest of the population and are more likely to commit suicide.

The study, known as STOP-D will recruit patients from nine Major Trauma Centres in England, broadly representing the socioeconomic, geographical and ethnic diversity in TBI, and randomly assign them to receive either sertraline or a placebo for 12 months.

STOP-D will measure the effects of sertraline on depression and quality of life, as well as the impact on stress levels for carers at 6 weeks and 3,6, 9 and 12 months after receiving the first dose.

The study could have significant benefits for patients with a head injury and their carers by providing evidence for a cost-effective and safe intervention to prevent depression and improve outcomes. The study will link the research data with the participants' GP and hospital records to monitor their long-term health.

STOP-D is taking place at Oxford University Hospitals in collaboration with King's College London.

Co-Chief Investigator on the study, Dr Vanessa Raymont, who is Senior Clinical Researcher in the Department of Psychiatry, said:


Given that the risk of developing depression for those patients with TBI is so great, this study is a crucial step in supporting those patients to receive the best possible outcome for their long-term recovery and wellbeing. The risk of PTD emerging so soon after a TBI suggests that initiation of an anti-depressant within a few weeks of the TBI could significantly reduce the incidence of PTD. Our findings will inform whether, and how to integrate the screening and management for depression in TBI patients within major trauma centres nationally.”

Dr Vanessa Raymont will be discussing STOP-D in a radio interview on BBC Radio Oxford on Friday, April 5th.

Read a BBC News article about the study