Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 30, Issue 8, pp 1607–1614 | Cite as

Psychiatric outcome following paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission: a cohort study

  • Gwyneth Rees
  • Julia GledhillEmail author
  • M. Elena Garralda
  • Simon Nadel
Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care



To determine whether paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission is associated with greater psychiatric morbidity in children and parents as compared with general paediatric ward admissions.


Retrospective cohort study.


Paediatric intensive care unit and two general paediatric wards of a London teaching hospital.


Children aged 5–18 years discharged from PICU (exposed cohort) and general paediatric wards (unexposed cohort) 6–12 months previously, together with their parents.

Measurements and results

Children: the Clinician Administered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Scale for Children (CAPS-C), the Impact of Event Scale (IES), Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, Birleson Depression Scale, Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale, Child Somatization Inventory. Parents: IES, General Health Questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Thirty-five of 46 (76%) PICU-discharged families and 33 of 41 (80%) from general paediatric wards participated. Valid CAPS-C data were obtained for 19 PICU-admitted children and 27 children admitted only to the general paediatric ward; 4/19 (21%) of PICU-discharged children developed PTSD (compared with none of 27 ward admissions), p=0.02. PICU children had significantly more PTSD features of irritability and persistent avoidance of reminders of the admission. Parents of PICU children were more likely to screen positive for PTSD (9/33 (27%) compared with 2/29 (7%) parents of ward-admitted children), p=0.04. There were no significant differences between the groups for other measures of psychopathology.


Post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and symptomatology is significantly more common in families where a child has been admitted to the PICU. Consideration should be given to providing psychological support for children and parents after PICU admission.


Psychiatric outcome Paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Parent(s) Child(ren) 



We would like to thank all the families who took part in this study.

With many thanks to COSMIC (Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care) for financial support.

Dr. Julia Gledhill is currently supported by a research training fellowship from the Wellcome Trust.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gwyneth Rees
    • 1
  • Julia Gledhill
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Elena Garralda
    • 1
  • Simon Nadel
    • 2
  1. 1.The Academic Unit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, St Mary’s CampusImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Department of PaediatricsSt Mary’s HospitalLondonUK

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