Printer Friendly

The effects of antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizer medication over the cardiovascular disease in patients with schizophrenia, depression and mood disorders.


Patients with severe psychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and recurrent major depression have a 2-3 times higher mortality rate compared to general population, corresponding to a cut life expectancy by 10-25 years (1, 2). The most common cause of death at these patients is somatic disorders.

Factors related to the psychiatric pathology, unhealthy life style, discrepancies in the provision of the medical assistance and addressability to the physician lead to a reserved prognostic in psychiatric patients. Using psychotropic medication can increase the risk of somatic complications (3). Therefore, it is necessary a thorough knowledge of the side effects of the psychotropic medication that is frequently used in the somatic state in patients with severe psychiatric disorders (4).


Even if antipsychotics have as a side effect gaining weight and are associated with obesity, the effect over the blood pressure is less pronounced, most probably due to the action of blocking the alpha-1 receptor, which can decrease the blood pressure. In the same time, the criteria for metabolic syndrome are met more often in patients with schizophrenia than in the general population (OR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.21-1.53) and in chronic patients with schizophrenia under antipsychotic treatment (39,7%) compared to the patients with a first psychotic episode (30,4%) or without medication (24,3%) (2). There has been observed a high risk of developing pathologies like high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome in patients with depression and bipolar disorder, pronounced in the ones treated with antipsychotics (5). From the antidepressant medication, venlafaxine is most frequently associated with high blood pressure, while mirtazapine is less associated with it compared to tricyclic antidepressants (6). Mood stabilizers have no effect over the blood pressure, with the exception of chronic renal insufficiency induced by lithium.


Actual data suggest that patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disease and recurrent major depression have a significant higher risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality compared to general population. The risk is approximately 1,5-3 times higher in patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and only 1,5 times higher in recurrent major depression. Moreover, cardiovascular disease is the most frequently cause of death in patients with severe psychiatric disease, with a 10 times higher risk compared to suicide (7, 8). The literature that talks about the cardiovascular prognostic regarding the antipsychotics is insufficient and the data are contradictory.

Even if some studies reported a high risk of cerebrovascular disease in patients that received antipsychotic treatment, others had inconclusive results. In case-control studies on old patients, the probability of stroke on the ones that received antipsychotic treatment compared to the ones without medication was approximately 1,3-2 times higher.

The risk of cerebral infarction is increased in the first weeks of treatment. A meta-analysis of 20 cohort studies has concluded that old people (>65 years) that are treated with first generation antipsychotic medication have no statistical significant increased risk (RR= 1.4; 95% CI: 0.81-1.91) of myocardial infarction compared to the ones treated with second generation antipsychotics (9).

Few studies have analyzed the association between antipsychotics and myocardial infarction, being a controversial topic because of the clinical and methodological different approaches. Some studies have reported a higher risk of myocardial infarction in old people ([greater than or equal to] 66 years) with or without dementia or in patients with severe psychiatric disease treated with antipsychotics compared to control subjects (RR= 1.15-6.2) (10). In a study conducted by Lin et al. on a significant number of patients with schizophrenia, affective disorders or dementia, AOR for the risk of acute myocardial infarction was 2,52 (95% CI: 2.37-2.68) for antipsychotics in general, 2,32 (95% CI: 2.17-2.47) for the first generation ones and 2,74 (95% CI: 2.49-3.02) for the second generation ones (11). A meta-analysis reported an increased risk of myocardial infarction in old people ([greater than or equal to] 65 years) treated with first generation antipsychotics (RR= 1.2; 95% CI: 1.16-1.23), compared to the ones treated with second generation. Instead, some studies haven't found an association between the exposure to antipsychotic medication and the risk of myocardial infarction (12).

The risk of cardiovascular events varies with each of the second generation antipsychotics, being reduced for aripiprazole and ziprasidone. For the first generation antipsychotics, a 5 year follow-up study on patients at the debut of schizophrenia detected a high cardiovascular mortality risk in patients treated with levomepromazine (OR = 2.68; 95% CI:1.37-5.25, p = 0.004) (13).

Literature data regarding cardiovascular safety of the second generation antipsychotics in young people are limited. In a cohort study (N = 48.625), the risk of major cardiovascular events (cardiovascular mortality, acute coronary syndrome or ischemic stroke) in adult psychiatric patients (18-64 years) that are ambulatory monitored was similar for risperidone, olanzapine and quetiapine in the first year of treatment. In another cohort study were enrolled 284.234 patients with ages between 18 and 65 years old; the ones with second generation antipsychotic treatment that was started less than one year had an higher risk of developing high blood pressure (adjusted HR, AHR = 1.16, 95% CI: 1.12-1.21), diabetes mellitus (AHR= 1.43, CI: 1.33-1.53), hypertensive cardiomyopathy (AHR=1.34, CI: 1.10-1.63), strokes (AHR=1.46, CI: 1.22-1.75), coronary heart disease (AHR = 1.17, CI: 1.05-1.30) and hyperlipidemia (AHR = 1.12, CI: 1.07-1.17) compared to the ones exposed to antidepressant medication (14).

In obese patients, the ones with psychiatric pathology have a significant higher cardiovascular risk. It is possible that, additional to the weight gain and the mechanisms correlated with obesity, to be a direct effect of the antipsychotics over the cardiovascular risk. For example, an autonomic nervous system dysfunction triggered by schizophrenia could be exacerbated by the antipsychotic treatment by blocking the peripheral dopamine receptors, increasing the sympathetic activity. A direct effect of antipsychotic treatment over the insulin resistance that induces impaired glucose tolerance can be another mechanism that leads to the increase of the appearance of cardiovascular disease (15).

Potential cardiovascular side effects of the tricyclic antidepressants are well known. They can cause orthostatic hypotension, lower cardiac conduction, increase heart rate, meaning that they should be avoided as much as possible in patients with preexistent cardiovascular disease. SSRIs (e.g. citaloprame) seems like having a superior cardiovascular safety, still in patients with high risk it can be associated a slight QTc interval prolongation. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are associated with a slightly increased incidence of the cardiovascular side effects (hypertension, tachycardia and orthostatic hypotension), but they do not prolong QTc interval at therapeutic doses. Even if lithium can have side effects over cardiac conduction, it can generally be used in patients with cardiovascular disease (16).


Myocarditis can appear after the treatment with clozapine, being diagnosed mostly at the beginning of the treatment and in young patients. Therefore, routine electrocardiographic monitoring in the first 4 weeks of treatment and interrupting clozapine if the myocarditis appears can prevent death. However, case reports suggest that gradually resuming clozapine may have success in most of the cases (15).


Patients with schizophrenia have 2-4 times higher risk of cardiac arrest compared to general population. Even if the causes of this high risk remain unclear, the individual susceptibility (e.g. coronary heart disease) and an increase prevalence of Brugada electrocardiographic anomalies seem relevant. Important additional risk factors include unhealthy life style and psychotropic medication.

The association between cardiac arrest and specific psychotropic medication has been explained by the prolonging of the ventricular depolarization (prolonged QTc), that predisposes to life-threatening ventricular tachyarrhythmia (e.g. torsades de pointes). There is a consensus that the values of QTc>500 ms or an absolutely increase with [greater than or equal to] 60 ms compared to the basal values without medication includes the patient at a significant risk of torsades de pointes and cardiac arrest. However, even if there is a bond between QTc and torsades de pointes, this is not direct. Torsades de pointes can appear at therapeutic doses with antipsychotics or antidepressants with a QTc interval <500 ms (17, 18).

Patients under treatment with first or second generation antipsychotics have an increased risk of cardiac arrest compared to the ones without treatment, with or without psychiatric disease, from 1,5 to 5,8 times higher according to the type on antipsychotic and the defining criteria of the cardiac arrest that we take into consideration. The largest study until now (459.614 patients treated with antipsychotics) has reported an incidence of cardiac arrest of 3,4 at 1000 persons/year (19). First generation antipsychotics with an increased risk of QTc prolonging include tioridazina (the highest risk), pimozide, droperidole, mesoridazine and haloperidole with intravenous administration (total cumulative dose > 2 mg) and from the second generation sertindole, amisulpride and ziprasidone. QTc prolonging for lurasidone and aripiprazole is not clinically significant and the one associated with asenapine and iloperidone is comparable with risperidone, olanzapine and quetiapine (20).

A meta-analysis reported the fact that SSRIs have a statistical significance association (but insignificant clinically) and dose dependent with the increasing QTc interval (+6.10 milliseconds; 95% CI: 3.47-8.73, p<0.001) compared to placebo. The most potent effect seems to be with citaloprame. Tricyclic antidepressants prolong the QTc with a factor > 2 compared to SSRIs. Studies that correlate antipsychotic and antidepressant medication with an increased risk of cardiac arrest suggest a dose dependent relationship (18).

Cases of torsades de pointes have been reported for antipsychotics, tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs. The ARITMO project (Arrhythmogenic Potential of Drugs) classified beside ziprasidone five other second generation antipsychotics (amisulpride, clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine and risperidone) as having a high risk of developing torsades de pointes. However, these antipsychotics (with the exception of amisulpride and possibly quetiapine) have generally been associated with a relatively low potential of prolonging QTc interval. SSRIs determine very rarely torsades de pointes, with a small number of reported cases. The association between SSRIs and second generation antipsychotics determine exceptional torsades de pointes. There haven't been reported cases of torsades de pointes induced by lithium (21). We don't have to forget that coronary heart disease are underlying to most of the cardiac arrests. The actual recommendations don't suggest routinely electrocardiographic monitoring for the initiation of the antipsychotic treatment in the absence of the cardiovascular risk factors, but only if the prescribed antipsychotic has a high risk of torsades de pointes or cardiac arrest (20).


Patients with severe psychiatric disorders have a high risk of cardiovascular disease and in consequence an increased mortality rate. Additional to the factors regarding the psychiatric disorder, like the discrepancies in the access and in the use of healthcare and the unhealthy life style, the psychotropic medication can contribute to the development or aggravation of the cardiovascular disease. We summarized the existing evidence over the antipsychotic, antidepressants and mood stabilizers medication side effects in the somatic state of the patients with schizophrenia, recurrent major depression and bipolar disorder. Generally, the side effects regarding the health are pronounced for antipsychotics, followed by mood stabilizers, tricyclic antidepressants and new generation antidepressants. Increased doses, polymedication and the treatment of the vulnerable persons (young or old) seem to be associated with a more pronounced effect over most of the cardiovascular disease. Even if the antipsychotic medication has a high potential to affect the physical condition of the patients, it is important to retain that a number of large studies that obtained data that could be generalized suggest that mortality has higher rates in schizophrenic patients without antipsychotic medication (2, 22). Moreover, clozapine, antidepressants, lithium and antiepileptic medication have a low mortality rate through suicide. Thus, the potential risk of antipsychotic, antidepressants and mood stabilizer medication should be compared to the risk of the psychiatric diseases for which they are used and to the long term potential benefit induced by the medication.

In the same time, there should be paid more attention to the possible impact of the psychotropic medication and its side effects over the cardiovascular system in patients with severe psychiatric diseases. This could help the medical staff in selecting the optimal treatment for each and every one of the patients. Moreover, information regarding the side effects for some of the medication might be useful in implementing an adequate monitoring and strategies in order to improve prognosis both somatically and psychiatrically.


The authors state that they are no declared conflicts of interest regarding this paper.


(1.) Brown S, Kim M, Mitchell C, Inskip H. Twenty-five year mortality of a community cohort with schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry. 2010 Feb; 196(2): 116-121.

(2.) Vancampfort D, Wampers M, Mitchell AJ et al. A meta-analysis of cardio-metabolic abnormalities in drug naive, first-episode and multi-episode patients with schizophrenia versus general population controls. World Psychiatry. 2013 Oct; 12(3):24050.

(3.) Tiihonen J, Lonnqvist J, Wahlbeck K et al. 11-year follow-up of mortality in patients with schizophrenia: a population-based cohort study (fIN11 study). Lancet. 2009 Aug 22;374(9690):620-7.

(4.) Tiihonen J. Real-world effectiveness of antipsychotics. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2016 Nov; 134(5): 371-373.

(5.) Emul M, Kalelioglu T. Etiology of cardiovascular disease in patients with schizophrenia: current perspectives. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015; 11: 2493-2503.

(6.) Stahl SM, Grady MM, Moret C, Briley M., SNRIs: their pharmacology, clinical efficacy, and tolerability in comparison with other classes of antidepressants. CNSSpectr. 2005 Sep; 10(9):732-47.

(7.) Laursen TM, Munk-Olsen T, Vestergaard M. Life expectancy and cardiovascular mortality in persons with schizophrenia. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2012 Mar; 25(2):83-8.

(8.) Kisely S, Preston N, Xiao J, Lawrence D, Louise S, Crowe E., Reducing all-cause mortality among patients with psychiatric disorders: a population-based study. Can Med Assoc J. 2013 Jan 8; 185(1): E50-E56.

(9.) Shapiro PA, Psychiatric Aspects of Heart Disease (and Cardiac Aspects of Psychiatric Disease) in Critical Care. Crit Care Clin. 2017 Jul; 33(3):619-63.

(10.) Brauer R, Smeeth L, Anaya-Izquierdo K et al. Antipsychotic drugs and risks of myocardial infarction: a self-controlled case series study. Eur Heart J. 2015 Apr 21;36(16):984-92.

(11.) Lin ST, Chen CC, Tsang HY et al. Association between antipsychotic use and risk of acute myocardial infarction: a nationwide case-crossover study. Circulation. 2014 Jul 15;130(3):235-43.

(12.) Rehm J, Roerecke M. Cardiovascular effects of alcohol consumption. Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2017 Jun 10. pii: S10501738(17)30078-6.

(13.) Cipriani A, Hawton K, Stockton S, Geddes JR. Lithium in the prevention of suicide in mood disorders: updated systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2013 Jun 27;346: f3646.

(14.) Correll UC, Joffe B, Rosen LM, Sullivan TB, Joffe RT. Cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk factors and events associated with second-generation antipsychotic compared to antidepressant use in a non-elderly adult sample: results from a claims-based inception cohort study. World Psychiatry 2015 Feb; 14(1): 56-63.

(15.) Nielsen J, Correll CU, Manu P, Kane JM. Termination of clozapine treatment due to medical reasons: when is it warranted and how can it be avoided? J Clin Psychiatry. 2013 Jun; 74(6):603-13.

(16.) Beach SR, Kostis WJ, Celano CM et al. Meta-analysis of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor-associated QTc prolongation. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014 May; 75(5):e441-9.

(17.) Hasnain M, Vieweg WV. QTc interval prolongation and torsade de pointes associated with second-generation antipsychotics and antidepressants: a comprehensive review. CNSDrugs. 2014 Oct; 28(10):887-920.

(18.) van Haelst IM, van Klei WA, Doodeman HJ et al. QT interval prolongation in users of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in an elderly surgical population: a cross-sectional study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014 Jan; 75(1):15-21.

(19.) Leonard CE, Freeman CP, Newcomb CW et al. Antipsychotics and the Risks of Sudden Cardiac Death and All-Cause Death: Cohort Studies in Medicaid and Dually-Eligible Medicaid-Medicare Beneficiaries of Five States. J Clin Exp Cardiolog. 2013; Suppl 10(6):1-9.

(20.) Shah AA, Aftab A, Coverdale J. QTc prolongation with antipsychotics: is routine ECG monitoring recommended? J Psychiatr Pract. 2014 May; 20(3):196-206.

(21.) Hazell L, Raschi E, De Ponti F et al. Evidence for the hERG Liability of Antihistamines, Antipsychotics, and Anti-Infective Agents: A Systematic Literature Review From the ARITMO Project. J Clin Pharmacol. 2017 May; 57(5):558-572.

(22.) Lange C, Deutschenbaur L, Borgwardt S, Lang UE, Walter M, Huber CG. Experimentally induced psychosocial stress in schizophrenia spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Schizophr Res. 2017 Apr; 182:4-12.

Maria-Magdalena LEON-CONSTANTIN -"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Specialties (I), address: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Clinical Rehabilitation Hospital--Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Clinic, address: Pantelimon Halipa street nr 14, Iasi, Romania e-mail:

Ovidiu MITU--"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Specialties (II), address: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Sf. Spiridon Hospital--Cardiology Clinic, address: Piata Universitatii street nr 1, Iasi, Romania--e-mail:

Stefan PAVILIU--"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Specialties (I), address: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Clinical Rehabilitation Hospital--Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Clinic, address: Pantelimon Halipa street nr 14, Iasi, Romania

Cristina FURNICA--"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Departament of Morphofunctional Sciences I, adress: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Forensic Medicine Institute, adress: Buna Vestire street nr 2, Iasi, e-mail

Alexandra MASTALERU -"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Specialties (I), address: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Clinical Rehabilitation Hospital--Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Clinic, address: Pantelimon Halipa street nr 14, Iasi, Romania Correspondent author: Alexandra Mastaleru--email:

Florin MITU -"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Romania, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Specialties (I), address: University street nr 16, Iasi, Romania; Clinical Rehabilitation Hospital--Chief of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Clinic, address: Pantelimon Halipa street nr 14, Iasi, Romania e-mail:


Alexandra Mastaleru,

"Grigore T Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy--Iasi, Faculty of Medicine Departament of Medical Specialties (I), Discipline of Medical Semiology, Department of Medical Specialties (II), Discipline of Cardiology 3--Departament of Morphofunctional Sciences I, Discipline of Anatomy, E-mail:

Submission: 18sep 2017

Acceptance: 21 dec 2017
COPYRIGHT 2018 Institute of Psychiatry Socola, Iasi
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Leon-Constantin, Maria-Magdalena; Mitu, Ovidiu; Furnica, Cristina; Mastaleru, Alexandra; Paviliu, St
Publication:Bulletin of Integrative Psychiatry
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Previous Article:The importance of exercising in the pathological manifestations of some psychiatric disorders such as autism or schizophrenia.
Next Article:Parents against autism spectrum disorders.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters