Presurgical Psychological and Neuroendocrine Predictors of Psychiatric Morbidity after Major Vascular Surgery: A Prospective Longitudinal Study

Anthony P. King, James L. Abelson, Bardia Gholami, Gilbert R. Upchurch, Peter Henke, Linda Graham, Israel Liberzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives Major life stressors, including major surgeries, are often followed by psychiatric symptoms and disorders. Prior retrospective work found abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair is followed by increased psychiatric morbidity, which may adversely influence physical and functional recovery. Identifying risk factors before surgery, such as dysregulation in stress response systems, might be useful in improving preventative intervention. Methods Two hundred sixteen patients receiving open AAA or aortofemoral bypass surgeries, endovascular AAA repair, or nonsurgical AAA treatment were recruited from two vascular surgery services. Psychiatric symptoms and salivary cortisol measures (waking, 4 PM, and 11 PM, before and after low-dose dexamethasone) were obtained at intake and 3- and 9-month follow-ups. Results After open surgeries, 18% of patients had new psychiatric disorders, compared with 4% of patients receiving endovascular AAA repair or nonsurgical treatment (odds ratio = 6.0, 95% confidence interval = 1.6-22.1, p =.007). Having a history of major depression predicted the onset of new disorders in surgical patients. Presurgical cortisol levels were associated with both baseline (r = 0.23, p <.05) and 9-month (r = 0.32, p <.01) psychiatric symptoms (cortisol B = 1.0, standard error = 0.48, p <.05, in repeated-measures mixed model). Conclusions Open AAA repair surgery is prospectively linked to the development of psychiatric morbidity, and history of depression elevates risk. Cortisol measures before surgery are associated with current and future psychological functioning, suggesting potential neurobiological mechanisms that may contribute to vulnerability. These results can help identify surgical patients at risk and point to potential targets for risk reduction interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1005
Number of pages13
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • cortisol
  • dexamethasone suppression test
  • hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • stress
  • stress-related psychopathology
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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