The Effect of Propranolol on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Burned Service Members

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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is reported to affect almost one third of the civilian burn patient population. Predisposing factors for PTSD include experiencing a traumatic event. Of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) soldiers returning home after deployment without injury, 17% reported cognitive symptoms of PTSD. The authors recent study of soldiers burned in OIF/OEF showed a PTSD prevalence of ∼30%, which is similar to civilian studies. Burns are characterized by hypermetabolism and increased catecholamine levels. β-Adrenergic receptor blocking agents, like propranolol, decrease catecholamine levels. Propranolol may reduce consolidation of memory and a prophylaxis for PTSD. This retrospective study examines the relationship between PTSD prevalence and propranolol administration. After institutional review board approval, propranolol received, number of surgeries, anesthetic/analgesic regimen, TBSA burned, and injury severity score were collected from patients charts. The military burn center received 603 soldiers injured in OIF/OEF, of which 226 completed the PTSD Checklist-Military. Thirty-one soldiers received propranolol and 34 matched soldiers did not. In propranolol patients, the prevalence of PTSD was 32.3% vs 26.5% in those not receiving propranolol (P = .785). These data suggest propranolol does not decrease PTSD development in burned soldiers. The prevalence of PTSD in patients receiving propranolol is the same as those not receiving propranolol. More research is needed to determine the relationship between PTSD and propranolol.

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