Posttraumatic stress disorder in general intensive care unit survivors: a systematic review

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2008 Sep-Oct;30(5):421-34. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2008.05.006. Epub 2008 Jul 30.


Objective: Our objective was to summarize and critically review data on the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in general intensive care unit (ICU) survivors, risk factors for post-ICU PTSD and the impact of post-ICU PTSD on health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review using Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PsycINFO and a hand-search of 13 journals.

Results: Fifteen studies were eligible. The median point prevalence of questionnaire-ascertained "clinically significant" PTSD symptoms was 22% (n=1,104), and the median point prevalence of clinician-diagnosed PTSD was 19% (n=93). Consistent predictors of post-ICU PTSD included prior psychopathology, greater ICU benzodiazepine administration and post-ICU memories of in-ICU frightening and/or psychotic experiences. Female sex and younger age were less consistent predictors, and severity of critical illness was consistently not a predictor. Post-ICU PTSD was associated with substantially lower HRQOL.

Conclusions: The prevalence of PTSD in ICU survivors is high and negatively impacts survivors' HRQOL. Future studies should comprehensively address how patient-specific factors (e.g., pre-ICU psychopathology), ICU management factors (e.g., administration of sedatives) and ICU clinical factors (e.g., in-ICU delirium) relate to one another and to post-ICU PTSD. Clinicians caring for the growing population of ICU survivors should be aware of PTSD risk factors and monitor patients' needs for early intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units* / statistics & numerical data
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data