Cardiac Safety in Schizophrenia Group
Objectes: This study was designed to help identify and clarify issues associated with cardiac safety in schizophrenia, particularly QTc interval prolongation; to raise awareness among psychiatrists of the cardiac issues involved in prescribing for schizophrenia and help psychiatrists minimise the potential cardiac risks associated with treating schizophrenia.
Methods: The currently available literature on cardiac dysfunction associated with antipsychotic treatments was reviewed by an independent panel of international psychiatric and cardiology experts. Following individual review, a joint meeting was held and a consensus statement produced.
Results: Prolongation of QTc interval is relatively common among antipsychotic drugs although there is marked variation in the extent to which the different agents exert their effect. If a patient is considered to be at high risk of significantly prolonged QTc interval (e.g. increasing age, female gender, comorbid cardiovascular disease) prescription of an antipsychotic drug with low QTc prolonging potential is recommended. Evaluation of a patient's risk factors for significant QTc prolongation is an important part of patient assessment at presentation. To significantly reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality from prolonged QTc interval a team approach involving the hospital emergency psychiatric care team, the office-based psychiatrist, the primary care physician, the cardiologist and the pharmacist is advocated.
Conclusions: Significant QTc interval prolongation caused by some antipsychotics is a risk factor that may lead to sudden death in patients with schizophrenia receiving these medications. Not all antipsychotic drugs prolong QTc interval. Careful clinical and pharmacological management of the patient with schizophrenia can significantly reduce the risks of morbidity and mortality from QTc interval prolongation.