Early detection in first-episode psychosis confers advantages for negative, cognitive, and depressive symptoms after 1, 2, and 5 years, but longitudinal effects are unknown. The authors investigated the differences in symptoms and recovery after 10 years between regional health care sectors with and without a comprehensive program for the early detection of psychosis.
The authors evaluated 281 patients (early detection, N=141) 18 to 65 years old with a first episode of nonaffective psychosis between 1997 and 2001. Of these, 101 patients in the early-detection area and 73 patients in the usual-detection area were followed up at 10 years, and the authors compared their symptoms and recovery.
A significantly higher percentage of early-detection patients had recovered at the 10-year follow-up relative to usual-detection patients. This held true despite more severely ill patients dropping out of the study in the usual-detection area. Except for higher levels of excitative symptoms in the early-detection area, there were no symptom differences between the groups. Early-detection recovery rates were higher largely because of higher employment rates for patients in this group.
Early detection of first-episode psychosis appears to increase the chances of milder deficits and superior functioning. The mechanisms by which this strategy improves the long-term prognosis of psychosis remain speculative. Nevertheless, our findings over 10 years may indicate that a prognostic link exists between the timing of intervention and outcome that deserves additional study.
Comment In: Am J Psychiatry. 2012 Sep;169(9):992; author reply 992-322952080
Comment In: Am J Psychiatry. 2012 Apr;169(4):345-722476671
Identifying patients at risk of poor outcome at an early stage of illness can aid in treatment planning. This study sought to create a best-fit statistical model of known baseline and early-course risk factors to predict time in psychosis during a ten-year follow-up period after a first psychotic episode.
Between 1997 and 2000, 301 patients with DSM-IV nonorganic, nonaffective first-episode psychosis were recruited consecutively from catchment area-based sectors in Norway and Denmark. Specialized mental health personnel evaluated patients at baseline, three months, and one, two, five, and ten years (N=186 at ten years). Time in psychosis was defined as time with scores =4 on any of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale items P1, P3, P5, P6, and G9. Evaluations were retrospective, based on clinical interviews and all available clinical information. During the first two years, patients were also evaluated by their clinicians at least biweekly. Baseline and early-course predictors of long-term course were identified with linear mixed-model analyses.
Four variables provided significant, additive predictions of longer time in psychosis during the ten-year follow-up: deterioration in premorbid social functioning, duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) of =26 weeks, core schizophrenia spectrum disorder, and no remission within three months.
First-episode psychosis patients should be followed carefully after the start of treatment. If symptoms do not remit within three months with adequate treatment, there is a considerable risk of a poor long-term outcome, particularly for patients with a deterioration in premorbid social functioning, a DUP of at least half a year, and a diagnosis within the core schizophrenia spectrum.