Objective: To determine whether paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission is associated with greater psychiatric morbidity in children and parents as compared with general paediatric ward admissions.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Paediatric intensive care unit and two general paediatric wards of a London teaching hospital.
Participants: Children aged 5-18 years discharged from PICU (exposed cohort) and general paediatric wards (unexposed cohort) 6-12 months previously, together with their parents.
Measurements and results: Children: the Clinician Administered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Scale for Children (CAPS-C), the Impact of Event Scale (IES), Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, Birleson Depression Scale, Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, Child Somatization Inventory. Parents: IES, General Health Questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Thirty-five of 46 (76%) PICU-discharged families and 33 of 41 (80%) from general paediatric wards participated. Valid CAPS-C data were obtained for 19 PICU-admitted children and 27 children admitted only to the general paediatric ward; 4/19 (21%) of PICU-discharged children developed PTSD (compared with none of 27 ward admissions), p=0.02. PICU children had significantly more PTSD features of irritability and persistent avoidance of reminders of the admission. Parents of PICU children were more likely to screen positive for PTSD (9/33 (27%) compared with 2/29 (7%) parents of ward-admitted children), p=0.04. There were no significant differences between the groups for other measures of psychopathology.
Conclusion: Post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and symptomatology is significantly more common in families where a child has been admitted to the PICU. Consideration should be given to providing psychological support for children and parents after PICU admission.