To determine if symptoms of posttraumatic stress, initially evaluated in the emergency department (ED) setting, persist over time.
Prospective cohort study.
Two urban, academic medical center EDs.
Sixty-nine injured patients, aged 12 to 24 years, were assessed for acute posttraumatic stress symptoms at the time of their enrollment in an ongoing ED-based study of intentional youth violence, and assessed for posttraumatic stress symptoms up to 5 months later.
Main Outcome Measures
The Immediate Stress Reaction Checklist, administered during the ED visit, and the Symptom Checklist of the Child and Adolescent Trauma Survey, administered during routine telephone follow-up.
Patients in the emergency department reported a range of acute stress symptoms on the Immediate Stress Reaction Checklist, with 25% reporting clinically significant distress. On follow-up assessment, 15% reported significant posttraumatic stress symptoms. The severity of acute stress symptoms was strongly associated with the severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms at follow-up (r = 0.55, P<.005). Age, sex, injury type, and time from injury to follow-up were not associated with the degree of acute stress or posttraumatic stress symptom severity at initial or follow-up assessment.
This study provides preliminary evidence that acute stress symptoms, assessed in the ED in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic injury, are useful indicators of risk for later posttraumatic stress.