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Post-traumatic stress after PICU and corticosteroid use


Aim To examine the association between corticosteroid use in paediatric intensive care units (PICU) and subsequent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Methods The subjects were children aged 8–16 years admitted to PICU with sepsis, meningoencephalitis (ME) and other disorders. Illness information was extracted from case notes; 3–6 months post discharge children completed a PTSD symptom questionnaire (eight-item Impact of Events Scale (IES-8)) assessing intrusion and avoidance symptoms. Saliva samples were also collected for cortisol profile analysis.

Results 53 children completed the IES-8 questionnaires. 33 provided saliva samples. 19 (36%) received corticosteroids. In children with sepsis (n=15), corticosteroid use was associated with significantly lower PTSD intrusion symptom scores. There was a trend towards an association between corticosteroid use and lower evening cortisol levels. There was a comparable but weaker trend in children with ME.

Discussion Corticosteroid use may be associated with fewer PTSD symptoms and lower evening cortisol levels following PICU admission in children with sepsis.

  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • corticosteroids
  • paediatric intensive care
  • child
  • ptsd

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