A subarachnoid hemorrhage reduces patients' quality of life (QoL) in both the short and long term. Neurological problems alone cannot explain this reduction. We examined whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fatigue provide an explanation.METHODS
We prospectively studied a representative sample of 105 subarachnoid hemorrhage patients. Patients were examined at approximately 3 and 13 months postictus. Examinations included assessments of PTSD, fatigue, sleep, cognitive and physical outcomes, and QoL. Patients' coping skills were also assessed. Regression analyses identified predictors for QoL and PTSD.RESULTS
Thirty-seven percent met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD at both assessment points. This is a fourfold increase compared with the rate of PTSD in the general population. Fatigue in patients was also consistently elevated, higher, in fact, than the notoriously high fatigue level reported for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. PTSD was the best predictor for mental QoL, the domain most persistently impaired. It also helped predict physical QoL. Moreover, PTSD was linked to increased sleep problems and may, therefore, have led to fatigue in both the acute and later stages of recovery. To establish the cause of PTSD, a logistic regression was performed. This showed that maladaptive coping was the best predictor of PTSD.CONCLUSION
PTSD explains why some subarachnoid hemorrhage patients, despite relatively good clinical outcomes, continue to experience a reduced QoL. Given that maladaptive coping skills seem the main cause of PTSD, teaching patients better coping skills early on might prevent PTSD and QoL reduction.