The Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Related Psychosocial Consequences of Burn Injury: A Pilot Study

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Burn injuries are unique in their medical and psychological impact, yet there has been little exploration of psychiatric treatment for this population. This uncontrolled pilot study assessed feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a treatment protocol designed to address posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, coping with scarring, and community integration among adult burn survivors. A 14-session, manualized treatment protocol was created using cognitive-behavioral interventions including imaginal exposure, behavioral activation, cognitive restructuring, modeling, and in vivo exposure. Responses were measured using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale, Beck Depression Index, Community Integration Questionnaire, Oswestry Disability Questionnaire, and Burn Specific Health Scale. Nine of 10 enrolled patients (60% women; mean = 42 years old) completed treatment. Burn size was 0.5% to 65%; mechanism of injury included flame (4), scald (5), and contact (1) burns. Mean acute hospitalization was 30.1 days (range = 13–87); mean time from injury to treatment was 3.2 months (range = 1–7). Baseline mean posttraumatic stress score was 68 on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (severe); scores decreased by 36% to a mean of 45.3 at posttreatment, with a large effect size. Baseline self-reported depression was 21 (moderate) on the Beck Depression Index, decreasing by 47% to a mean of 12 posttreatment (nonclinical). Change in community reintegration score was significant and large, and body image showed significant improvement. The protocol showed promise in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, self-image, and community reintegration following burn injury. These findings suggest that coping may improve with treatment and symptoms should not be dismissed as unavoidable consequences of burn injury.

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