Stress Disorders Following Prolonged Critical Illness in Survivors of Severe Sepsis

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Objectives:To examine the frequency of acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder in chronically critically ill patients with a specific focus on severe sepsis, to classify different courses of stress disorders from 4 weeks to 6 months after transfer from acute care hospital to postacute rehabilitation, and to identify patients at risk by examining the relationship between clinical, demographic, and psychological variables and stress disorder symptoms.Design:Prospective longitudinal cohort study, three assessment times within 4 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after transfer to postacute rehabilitation.Setting:Patients were consecutively enrolled in a large rehabilitation hospital (Clinic Bavaria, Kreischa, Germany) admitted for ventilator weaning from acute care hospitals.Patients:We included 90 patients with admission diagnosis critical illness polyneuropathy or critical illness myopathy with or without severe sepsis, age between 18 and 70 years with a length of ICU stay greater than 5 days.Interventions:None.Measurements and Main Results:Acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder were diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, criteria by a trained and experienced clinical psychologist using a semistructured clinical interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. We further administered the Acute Stress Disorder Scale and the Posttraumatic Symptom Scale-10 to assess symptoms of acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Three percent of the patients had an acute stress disorder diagnosis 4 weeks after transfer to postacute rehabilitation. Posttraumatic stress disorder was found in 7% of the patients at 3-month follow-up and in 12% after 6 months, respectively. Eighteen percent of the patients showed a delayed onset of posttraumatic stress disorder. Sepsis turned out to be a significant predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms at 3-month follow-up.Conclusions:A regular screening of post-ICU patients after discharge from hospital should be an integral part of aftercare management. The underlying mechanisms of severe sepsis in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder need further examination.

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