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J Affect Disord. 2008 Jul;109(1-2):21-34. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

Treatment of bipolar depression: an update.

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3rd Department of Psychiatry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.


This article attempts to summarize the current status of our knowledge and practice in the acute treatment and prophylaxis of bipolar depression. For prophylactic treatment, our knowledge about lithium firmly supports its usefulness against bipolar depression and its specific effectiveness for suicidal prevention. Valproic acid and carbamazepine could be effective, too, while lamotrigine which seems to be preferably effective against depression but not mania. The FDA has approved the olanzapine-fluoxetine combination and quetiapine monotherapy for the treatment of acute bipolar depression. The usefulness of antidepressants in bipolar depression is controversial both for acute and prophylactic treatment; guidelines suggest their cautious use and always in combination with an antimanic and mood stabilizer agent, because in some patients they may induce switching to mania or hypomania, mixed episodes and rapid cycling. Data on psychosocial intervention are restricted to the maintenance phase. Electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation are additional options for refractory patients. Bipolar depression seems to be a more difficult condition to treat than mania. Most patients need complex combination treatment although the published evidence on this type of treatment is limited.

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