Background and aims Admission to paediatric intensive care (PIC) has been linked to subsequent post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in parents. This study aimed to obtain initial estimates regarding the effect of a brief intervention on parent PTSS and explore the mediating effect of baseline parental stress.
Methods Parents of children aged 4–16 years old were randomised to intervention versus treatment as usual (TAU). The intervention was delivered within six weeks of discharge from hospital and included a psycho-educational booklet and telephone call. Parents’ baseline stress was measured using the Parental Stressor Scale: PICU. Parents were followed-up a median of 5 months post discharge from PICU and measures of PTSS were obtained using the Impact of Events Scale.
Results Although not statistically significant, parents in the intervention group (n = 17) fared better than parents in the TAU group (n = 6): They reported fewer PTSS [19.47 (95% CI 11.64–26.62) vs. 25.83 (95% CI 11.47–39.00)] and fewer were at risk for clinical disorder (18% vs. 33%) (Cohen’s d = 0.38 and 0.34 respectively). However, there were potential implications for screening: “High stress” parents in the intervention group had lower PTSS scores than “high stress” TAU parents (d = 1.06), whereas “low stress” parents in the intervention group had higher PTSS scores than “low stress” TAU parents (d = 0.47) (See Figure 1).
Conclusions Pilot data indicate that a brief intervention could have a significant impact on parent PTSS following paediatic critical illness, but this needs to be evaluated in a sufficiently powered RCT.
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