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J Affect Disord. 1994 Oct;32(2):85-95.

Lithium response and genetics of affective disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, Royal Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada.


The authors have carried out an investigation of psychiatric morbidity in families of patients who responded and failed to respond to long-term lithium treatment. The study included 121 probands with RDC primary affective disorders and 903 first-degree relatives and spouses. Seventy-one probands were responders and 50 were nonresponders to long-term lithium treatment. Extended to 20 years, the follow-up of patients and their families provided substantial information relevant for the diagnosis and reliable assessment of lithium response. The diagnoses were based on all available information, SADS-L interviews and RDC criteria. The principal statistical methods were survival analysis and Cox regression analysis. The results revealed a significantly higher frequency of bipolar disorder in the relatives of lithium responders (3.8% vs. 0%). Schizophrenia was more common in the families of nonresponders (2.4% vs. 0.3%). There were no significant differences in the rates of other psychiatric disorders. Both family history and the proband's diagnosis contribute independently to predicting response to long-term lithium.

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