Early Detection and Intervention in Psychosis Improves 10-Year Outcome

Early detection in first-episode psychosis confers advantages for negative, cognitive, and depressive symptoms after 1, 2, and 5 years, but longitudinal effects have been unknown. A new article  published in the American Journal of Psychiatry 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 non-affective psychosis. 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.

Results showed 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.

The researchers concluded that 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, these findings over 10 years may indicate that a prognostic link exists between the timing of intervention and outcome.

Am J Psychiatry 2012