Studies on Depression and Fatigue in People With End Stage Kidney Disease Receiving Haemodialysis
Depression is common in haemodialysis (HD) patients and is often unrecognised and undertreated, though associated with excess morbidity and mortality. Diagnosis is challenging due to symptom overlap with kidney failure, with fatigue being the most common overlapping symptom. Research on the effectiveness of antidepressant medication in this setting is sparse. A recent systematic review advocated well-designed Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) in this setting. The studies reported in this thesis had a number of aims. The main aim was to undertake a multicentre feasibility randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial of sertraline in patients on HD with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). To identify suitable patients for this, a screening phase was required, which also allowed determination of the prevalence of depression in this setting and of the relative effectiveness of screening tools Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2), Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). It also allowed examination of the relationships of fatigue in this setting (assessed mainly by the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI), including those with a diagnosis, and management of depression. The finding, during screening, that a large proportion of the HD cohort was already on antidepressant treatment, presented the opportunity to study ‘real-life’ practice patterns in the management of antidepressant treatment in this setting. Recruitment into the RCT was difficult. 1,355 patients in five HD centres were considered for screening, but 243 of these were excluded, mainly because of their inability to read and understand English. Of the remaining 1,110 patients, 709 consented to screening. 231 of these screened positive for high depression symptoms but 130 were not considered for the trial phase, mainly because of concurrent treatment for depression (68 patients), and other contraindicated conditions and medication. In addition, 38 patients declined to take part in the psychiatric interview necessary for diagnosis of MDD. Of the 63 who underwent the diagnostic interview, 37 (58.7%) were diagnosed with MDD and 30 consented to enter the RCT and were randomised into sertraline or placebo groups. This was half of the anticipated recruitment into the RCT. Twenty-one patients (70%) completed the six-month study, eight of 15 in the sertraline group and 13 of 15 in the placebo group (p<0.05). Drop out was mainly due to adverse or serious adverse events. Depression scores (BDI-II and Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS)) improved significantly in both the sertraline and placebo groups over six months but there were no significant differences between the treatment groups. There was a slight suggestion of more rapid improvement over the first two months on sertraline, but this was not significant. Fatigue scores were high in all sub-domains – with only a weak relationship with age and comorbidity. Mental fatigue was the strongest independent predictor of high depressive symptoms (BDI-II ≥16, PHQ-9 ≥8), while physical fatigue had the strongest relationship with dialysis recovery time, and survival. Distinguishing between these components of fatigue may have a role in refining the diagnosis and management of MDD. Forty-one of the 76 patients on antidepressant medication at screening were followed up for a mean of 14±5 months. Ten different antidepressant agents were being taken – the most common being Citalopram (39%). Most had been prescribed by GPs. Two-thirds of patients either deteriorated or failed to improve in terms of BDI-II scores during follow-up, many of whom had had no adjustment of medication during this time. Diagnostic evaluation at follow-up showed 37% to be suffering from current or recurrent major depressive episodes (MDE), 48% to have evidence of past MDE, and 15% to have no evidence of ever having been depressed. These empirical studies confirm that depression is very common in HD patients. Its diagnosis is complicated due to symptom overlap with the uraemic syndrome. Fatigue seems to be a key area of overlap with symptoms of depression with a complex relationship. There was no obvious benefit from antidepressants in this feasibility RCT and there was a high drop-out rate due to adverse events, particularly in the sertraline group. These findings raise concerns about the benefits and risks of antidepressants in patients on HD. Current practice patterns may be subjecting patients to substantial risk for little or no benefit. Identifying whether antidepressant medication is effective in this context is a major clinical need, hence the requirement for a definitive study. There is no doubt that to undertake a definitive study would pose considerable recruitment challenges. The findings presented here emphasise the importance of finding ways to overcome these challenges that might include efforts to incorporate patients already taking antidepressants.