Children's psychological responses after critical illness and exposure to invasive technology

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2002 Jun;23(3):133-44. doi: 10.1097/00004703-200206000-00002.


Children hospitalized in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) are subjected to highly invasive interventions necessary in overcoming the critical period of their illness, yet little is known about their subsequent psychological adjustment. The purposes of this study were to compare the psychological responses of children hospitalized in a PICU with those of children hospitalized on a general ward and to identify clinically relevant factors that might be associated with psychological outcome. A prospective cohort design was used to follow 120 children for 6 months after PICU and ward discharge. Groups were compared on the children's sense of control over their health, their medical fears, posttraumatic stress, and changes in behavior. Relationships between children's responses and their age, the invasive procedures to which they were exposed, severity of illness, and length of hospital stay were also examined. No significant group differences were found. However, children who were younger, more severely ill, and who endured more invasive procedures had significantly more medical fears, a lower sense of control over their health, and ongoing posttraumatic stress responses for 6 months postdischarge. Findings indicate that regardless of the hospital setting, invasiveness coupled with length of stay and severity of illness in young children may have adverse long-term effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors