During the postoperative course of lung transplantation, patients may experience depressive symptoms that negatively influence their ability to cope with the new organ, their adherence to rehabilitation and pharmacologic therapy, and their overall quality of life (QoL). To date, no review has explored the causes of depression following transplantation or the efficacy and safety of therapeutic interventions in this patient group. We conducted a comprehensive 1966-2006 MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO search for studies of the causes and treatments of depression in lung transplant recipients. We identified 25 studies of variable methodologic quality. Depression rates are high among candidates for lung transplantation. In the short term, after surgery depressive symptoms remain low with an improvement in QoL, whereas in the long term (>3 years), the decline of functional status is associated with a dramatic increase in such symptomatology. Personality disorders, coping strategies, stressful life events, physical complications, corticosteroid medications, age, gender, and psychosocial support all play a central role in causing depressive states in lung transplant recipients. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and new-generation antidepressants (mirtazapine) represent the best therapeutic choices for this group of patients. The risk of serious drug-drug interactions should be carefully monitored by experienced clinicians. Complementary therapies and psychoeducational intervention also help recipients to strengthen their coping strategies, offering further advantages after transplantation. Additional well-conducted randomized controlled trials are needed to clarify the epidemiologic course of depression following lung transplantation and to tailor effective pharmacologic or psychological interventions accordingly.
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