The Effect of Antidepressants on Depression After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Meta-analysis

Natalie Kreitzer, Rachel Ancona, Cheryl Mccullumsmith, Brad G. Kurowski, Brandon Foreman, Laura B. Ngwenya, Opeolu Adeoye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objective: Following traumatic brain injury (TBI), depressive symptoms are common and may influence recovery. We performed a meta-analysis to estimate the benefit of antidepressants following TBI and compare the estimated effects between antidepressants and placebo. Participants: Multiple databases were searched to find prospective pharmacological treatment studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults following TBI. Main Measures: Effect sizes for antidepressant medications in patients with TBI were calculated for within-subjects designs that examined change from baseline after receiving medical treatment and treatment/placebo designs that examined the differences between the antidepressants and placebo groups. Design: A random-effects model was used for both analyses. Results: Of 1028 titles screened, 11 were included. Pooled estimates showed nonsignificant difference in reduction of depression scores between medications and placebo (standardized mean difference of 5 trials = -0.3; 95% CI, -0.6 to 0.0; I2 = 17%), and a significant reduction in depression scores for individuals after pharmacotherapy (mean change = -11.2; 95% CI, -14.7 to -7.6 on the Hamilton Depression Scale; I2 = 87%). Conclusions: This meta-analysis found no significant benefit of antidepressant over placebo in the treatment of MDD following TBI. Pooled estimates showed a high degree of bias and heterogeneity. Prospective studies on the impact of antidepressants in well-defined cohorts of TBI patients are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E47-E54
JournalJournal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • antidepressant
  • depression
  • traumatic brain injury


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