To examine the association between corticosteroid use in paediatric intensive care units (PICU) and subsequent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Methods
The subjects were children aged 8–16 years admitted to PICU with sepsis, meningoencephalitis (ME) and other disorders. Illness information was extracted from case notes; 3–6 months post discharge children completed a PTSD symptom questionnaire (eight-item Impact of Events Scale (IES-8)) assessing intrusion and avoidance symptoms. Saliva samples were also collected for cortisol profile analysis.Results
53 children completed the IES-8 questionnaires. 33 provided saliva samples. 19 (36%) received corticosteroids. In children with sepsis (n=15), corticosteroid use was associated with significantly lower PTSD intrusion symptom scores. There was a trend towards an association between corticosteroid use and lower evening cortisol levels. There was a comparable but weaker trend in children with ME.Discussion
Corticosteroid use may be associated with fewer PTSD symptoms and lower evening cortisol levels following PICU admission in children with sepsis.