Objective: This study was designed to assess the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in severely injured accident victims and to predict the presence of PTSD symptoms at a 12-month follow-up.
Method: A longitudinal, 1-year follow-up study was carried out with 106 consecutive patients with severe accidental injuries who were admitted to the trauma surgeons' intensive care unit at a university hospital. Patients were interviewed within 1 month and 12 months after the accident. Assessments included an extensive clinical interview, the Impact of Event Scale, the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, the Sense of Coherence questionnaire, and the Freiburg Questionnaire of Coping With Illness.
Results: A total of 13.4 days (SD=6.6) after the accident, five patients (4.7%) met all criteria for PTSD with the exception of the time criterion. A total of 22 other patients (20.8%) had subsyndromal PTSD. At the 1-year follow-up, two patients (1.9%) had PTSD, and 13 (12.3%) had subsyndromal PTSD. Multiple regression analysis explained 34% of the variance of PTSD symptoms 12 months after the accident. Biographical risk factors, the sense of a death threat, symptoms of intrusion, and problem-oriented coping each contributed significantly to the predictive model.
Conclusions: In severely injured accident victims who were healthy before experiencing trauma, the incidence of PTSD was low. One-third of the variance of PTSD symptoms at 1-year follow-up could be predicted by mainly psychosocial variables.