Relapse criteria in schizophrenic disorders: different perspectives

Leiden University, Leyden, South Holland, Netherlands
Psychiatry Research (Impact Factor: 2.68). 01/1995; 54(3):273-81. DOI: 10.1016/0165-1781(94)90021-3
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Relapse and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms were investigated in a prospective study of 88 patients with recent-onset schizophrenia and related disorders. Relapse definitions were derived from expressed emotion and family intervention studies and based on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), the Present State Examination, and clinical judgment. Results indicate that research and clinical criteria represent different perspectives on relapse. Clinical criteria provide a validity check that can verify BPRS-rated changes in partially remitted patients.

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The aim of the study was to evaluate how a population of French psychiatrists define criteria and therapeutic targets of acute schizophrenic state in their clinical practice. Psychiatrists filled out a self administered interview. At the time the interview was given, clinicians were notified that they were participating in a clinical consensus survey about schizophrenia. Six major indicators for acute state definition based on the literature data were proposed: general schizophrenic symptomatology modification (depression, anxiety, agitation, impulsivity/aggressiveness), specific schizophrenic symptomatology modification (positive symptoms, negative symptoms, disorganization), need for hospitalization, significant change in care, disturbance in social behavior and lastly, suicidal behavior. Minimal duration (1.2 or 4 weeks) of general and specific schizophrenic symptomatology modification required to define acute state were evaluated. The booklet included the 30 PANSS symptoms listed with their definitions. Among this symptom list, clinicians were instructed to select the ten criteria which they estimated best defined the acute state, followed by the ten most important target symptoms to be treated. Out of 2,369 questionnaires, 1,584 were collected on time (66.9%). Among the six majors indicators proposed to define acute state 75% of psychiatrists considered 1 to 3 criteria. Three were more frequently rated, including core schizophrenic symptomatology disturbance (68.4%), general schizophrenic symptomatology disturbance (68.0%) and suicidal behavior (64.9%). The other criteria were rated as follows: need for hospitalization (26.8%), significant change in care (18.3%), and disturbance in social behavior (29.1%). For 53.2% of psychiatrists the definition of acute state requires the presence of specific schizophrenic symptomatology for a minimal duration of one week. Two weeks with general symptomatology was required for 45.5% of psychiatrists to define acute state. Symptoms more often rated within the four first choices for acute state definition included delusions, conceptual disorganization, hallucinatory behavior and excitement. Except for grandiosity, all the PANSS positive subscale items were chosen to be included in the definition (delusions, conceptual disorganization, hallucinatory behavior, excitement, suspiciousness/persecution and hostility). Four items, including anxiety, depression, uncontrolled hostility, inner tension from the general psychopathology subscale were chosen as part of the ten most important criteria to define acute state. On the PANSS negative subscale (blunted affect, emotional withdrawal, poor relationships, passive apathetic withdrawal, difficulty in abstract thinking, lack of spontaneity/flow of conversation and stereotyped thinking), no item was rated to be included in the acute state definition. The highest rated symptoms among the four first choices for treatment included delusions, hallucinatory behavior, excitement and anxiety. The ten most important criteria for treatment were the same as for acute state definition with differences in frequency. Excited state, depression and suspiciousness/persecution were more rated for treatment than definition whereas delusion, hostility and conceptual disorganization were less rated as treatment target than definition criteria. In clinical practice, recognition of acute schizophrenic state is underscored by the association of specific schizophrenic symptomatology (positive symptoms, negative symptoms, disorganization) and general symptomatology (impulsivity/aggressiveness, anxiety, depression, agitation) of schizophrenia. For most clinicians, acute state definition requires specific symptom for a minimum of one week and other non-specific indicators such as suicidal behaviour have to be taken into account. With regard to PANSS criteria, most positive schizophrenic symptoms and some general schizophrenic symptoms are necessary for definition and designated as treatment priorities. Negative symptoms were not taken into account. Hallucinatory behavior is the first symptom rated in definition and is considered by psychiatrists as the absolute therapeutic priority. This survey could be a first step in the construction of an operational and consensual definition. This definition is strongly needed as a valid measurement in therapeutic and epidemiological outcome studies, which remain at least partly based on clinician subjective judgment.
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