, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 3-9
Date: 28 Oct 2010

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Medical Settings: Focus on the Critically Ill

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The relevance of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) concept to medically ill patients is becoming increasingly clear. Some medical conditions (e.g., rheumatologic diseases) are likely related to PTSD indirectly. Others, such as myocardial infarction and critical illness/intensive care unit (ICU) treatment, are likely traumatic stressors. Importantly, PTSD seems to be a potent risk factor for fatal and nonfatal cardiac events. Risk factors for medical illness–related PTSD appear similar to risk factors for PTSD in general. PTSD is particularly common among survivors of critical illness and ICU treatment. Further research is needed to determine how specific ICU interventions (e.g., administration of benzodiazepines, corticosteroids, and catecholamines) affect PTSD risk. In the meantime, given the negative impact of PTSD on patients’ quality of life, it is important for psychiatrists and other clinicians to be aware of the syndrome in survivors of critical illness so as to ensure that such patients receive the care that they deserve.