Friday, December 17, 2010

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction For Solid Organ Transplant Recipients: A Randomized Controlled Trial

In the United States, approximately 28,000 solid organ transplants are performed annually.  Transplant recipients frequently continue to have health problems, which can contribute to mental health difficulties. Given the complexity of transplant medication regimens, a drug-free strategy may be preferred in managing subsequent anxiety, depression, and anxiety. 

A group of researchers led by Dr. Gross conducted a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. MBSR has been associated with improved health outcomes for patients with medical and psychological concerns across a number of studies.

Transplant recipients who were at least 6 months post-transplant were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: an 8-week MBSR program, an 8-week health education program, and “usual care” waitlist. The health education program was created to account for non-specific effects of MBSR, such as group support. Of the initial 150 patients, 122 completed one or more of the follow-ups, which were administered at 8 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year.

MBSR showed the strongest outcomes. Greater home practice was related to reduced anxiety, increased vitality, and increased mindfulness. Compared to the waitlist condition, patients who completed MBSR showed fewer depressive symptoms, improved sleep, and increased vitality. Compared to the health education program, MBSR participants showed less anxiety, improved sleep, and more vitality at the 1-year follow-up; stated another way, improvements in the MBSR condition were more enduring at the 1-year follow-up than improvements in the health education condition. Contrary to expectations, there were no improvements in physical health and pain symptom perception.

As the authors note, the gains from MBSR were obtained without additional psychotropic meds (e.g., antidepressants). A non-psychopharmacological approach such as MBSR may be a useful alternative to additional medications, as it is likely transplant recipients already have complex med regimes managing other health problems. Moreover, the researchers were able to show that improvements from this 8-week program were maintained a year after treatment ended. Results are very supportive of MBSR as a viable treatment for organ transplant recipients.

For the full citation:

Gross, C.R., Krietzer, M.J., Thomas, W., Reilly-Spong, M., Cramer-Bornemann, M., et al. (2010). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction For Solid Organ Transplant Recipients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Alternative Therapies, 16(5), 30-38.

Many thanks to Jennifer Connolly for her assistance in creating this post!

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