Cochrane Summaries

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for stroke recovery

Mead GE, Hsieh C, Lee R, Kutlubaev MA, Claxton A, Hankey GJ, Hackett ML
Published Online: 
26 August 2013

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that have been in use for many years, mainly for the treatment of mood disorders such as depression. Animal studies have shown that SSRIs may have other direct effects on the brain, such as encouraging the development of new brain cells. If this also occurs in humans, recovery from stroke may be improved. This review brought together the results of 52 trials (4060 participants) of SSRIs in people who had had a stroke in the previous year, to find out whether SSRIs might reduce dependency and disability. The review found promising evidence that SSRIs might improve recovery after stroke, even in patients who were not depressed. Large trials are now needed to confirm or refute these findings, and to determine whether SSRIs increase the risk of side effects such as seizures. If effective, SSRIs would be a low-cost, simple and widely applicable treatment for patients with stroke.