Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with a tragedy such as being involved in a severe car accident or at the scene of an intense situation, such as a terrorist attack. Many associate the disorder with the kind of trauma experienced by military personnel when they are deployed to a battle zone.
However, PTSD can stem from any type of trauma, including high-stress situations that are occurring for the person’s best interest. Patients who are treated for life-threatening health issues in a hospital are sometimes severely affected by their experience.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Karolinska University Hospital Solna and the Karolinska Institute, shows that women are more affected by their experiences in the intensive care unit (ICU) than men. Women are more liable to report symptoms that meet the criteria for PTSD after being treated in the ICU.
The study finds that though there are many people who suffer from PTSD after leaving the care of the ICU, the symptoms can be significantly reduced through the use of physical and psychological follow-up appointments.
PTSD isn’t the only mental problem associated with ICU care, according to the study. Patients often also have symptoms for anxiety and depression. These mental disorders are not just related to the injury or illness that caused the hospital stay, but also the experience in the ICU.
The Karolinska researchers looked at how follow-up care affected the rates of PTSD, depression and anxiety in patients who had been treated in the ICU. The research team looked at records from patients in 2006, this was before a follow-up program was established, and compared them with records from 2007 and 2008, after the follow-ups were being conducted.
The follow-up program centered on meetings occurring at three, six and 12 months following discharge from the ICU. The meetings were conducted with a present nurse, a tending physician, a physiotherapist and a visit back to the ICU. In extreme cases, the patient was referred to a unit for psychiatric patients.
Prior to the implementation of the follow-up appointments, women were shown to score higher on the Impact Event Scale (IES), a measurement of post-traumatic stress symptoms, when compared to men. After the follow-up was introduced, the scores were improved for women. There was no change in the scores for men.
Dr. Peter Sackey is the lead author of the study. He explains that when considering the same situation, women are twice as liable to report symptoms consistent with PTSD, experience a slower recovery and are more likely to experience long-term effects.
This was also true for patients discharged from the ICU. The women who measured highest on the IES were also the ones who benefited the most by the implementation of the follow-up program.