Medical Professional Publications

Light Therapy Associated with Shorter Length of Stay for Hospitalized Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Columbus, OH - January 2016

Patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) often have respiratory exacerbations that lead to hospitalization. Clinician-researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have shown over the last several years that hospitalized CF patients have a high incidence of depressive symptoms associated with longer lengths of stay. Those patients also have reduced levels of light exposure while hospitalized, according to a 2013 study led by Benjamin Kopp, MD, a member of the Section of Pulmonary Medicine at Nationwide Children’s.

So could light therapy, an inexpensive and widely-available treatment for depression, have a positive effect on these patients? A recent pilot trial led by Dr. Kopp showed such a benefit that Nationwide Children’s now plans to offer the therapy to all of its hospitalized CF patients.

“We have pretty significant finding for such a simple treatment,” says Dr. Kopp. “We were actually surprised and impressed.”

Thirty CF patients with a mean age of 27.7 years were enrolled in the study upon hospital admission. The Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology self-report and clinician-administered survey found at least mild depression in 80 percent of the subjects. Approximately 58 percent were already taking antidepressant medication.

For the light therapy, the subjects used a NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp© after waking for 30 minutes over seven consecutive days. The lamp was placed 60 to 80 centimeters away from the face.

The subjects had a mean length of hospital stay of 11 ± 3.6 days, compared with 13.3 ± 4.4 days for a historical cohort of hospitalized CF patients from the year prior. A two-day length of stay decrease for 30 patients amounts to a cost savings of nearly $300,000, according to the researchers.

The average scores on the depressive symptom survey also decreased significantly; only two patients who were admitted with depressive symptoms showed no improvement after light therapy. The Cystic Fibrosis Questionnaire-Revised, given to the subjects to assess quality of life, showed that six out of 12 quality of life measures – physical, vitality, emotion, health perceptions, body image and respiratory – significantly improved during light therapy. Only one measure, weight, decreased in scoring.

Treating depression during hospitalization can be difficult, especially when it is a comorbidity of a chronic illness, says Dr. Kopp, who is also a principal investigator in the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s and a faculty member at The Ohio State College of Medicine.

But light therapy avoids many of the typical problems.            

“It works quickly, as there are not quick mood stabilizers available,” Dr. Kopp explains. “It’s inexpensive, so it can be used even when there are few financial resources available. And it does not interact with other medications that cystic fibrosis patients may be taking.”

Nationwide Children’s is now working on a sterilization protocol for lamps so that light therapy can be offered to each of its CF patients.

Kopp BT, Hayes D Jr, Ghera P, Patel A, Kirkby S, Kowatch RA, Splaingard M. Pilot trial of light therapy for depression in hospitalized patients with cystic fibrosis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2016 Jan 1; 189:164-8.

Kopp BT, Hayes D Jr, Ratkiewicz M, Baron N, Splaingard M. Light exposure and depression in hospitalized adult patients with cystic fibrosis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013 Sep 5; 150(2):585-9.

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