A new study shows patients with schizophrenia receiving antipsychotic medication may lose a small, but measurable, amount of brain tissue over time. Patients who take the largest doses over the longest duration of time are apt to see the greatest declines, new research suggests.
Illness duration and severity were also associated with brain volume loss, but the association between antipsychotic drug use and brain volume remained significant after accounting for these factors. The volume losses occurred in gray matter and white matter.
“The clinical significance of these findings is extremely difficult to fully assess,” study investigator Beng-Choon Ho, MD, MRCPsych, told Medscape Medical News. “To achieve this will require randomized controlled studies involving schizophrenia patients and healthy controls, but such studies do not meet current ethical standards in research.”
Dr. Ho, from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, said it’s “important for clinicians to work with schizophrenia patients so as to find the minimum effective antipsychotic dosage for each individual patient.” However, the findings do not support monitoring of patients by using follow-up brain imaging, he added.
The findings are reported in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry….
By Megan Brooks
Medscape Medical News
Arch Gen Psych. 2011;165:126-137. Abstract