Image of Mithilesh Siddu, M.D.

A new study suggests that patients who take common antidepressants are not likely at increased risk of intracerebral hemorrhage, a deadly type of bleeding stroke.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a ubiquitous treatment for depression and anxiety, which occurs frequently after a stroke. But the drugs are associated with a risk of bleeding. In a preliminary study to be presented in April, researchers identified more than 127,000 people who had experienced a stroke between 2010 and 2019. A total of 17,000 had been prescribed antidepressants before their strokes, and the remainder had never had an SSRI prescription.

After adjusting for risk factors for stroke such as age, high blood pressure and diabetes, stroke survivors who took antidepressants were just as likely to have an intracerebral hemorrhage as people not taking such medications, reported Mithilesh Siddu, M.D., of the University of Miami.

“These findings are important, especially since depression is common after stroke and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are some of the first drugs considered for people,” Siddu said. But he cautioned that more study is needed before physicians can proceed with full confidence in prescribing in this at-risk population.

Full findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting to be held virtually April 17 to 22.