Objective: To ascertain whether increases in psychological symptoms in children and parents after meningococcal disease are sustained over time, and to examine the psychosocial and illness associations of 12-mo psychological outcome.
Design: A prospective, cohort study using repeated measures.
Setting: Three pediatric intensive care units and 19 general pediatric wards across greater London.
Patients: Fifty-six children, aged 3 to 16 yrs, admitted to hospital with meningococcal disease and their parents.
Measures and main results: Child and parent psychological symptoms were measured, using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) at three time points: before/during hospital admission, 3 mos, and 12 mos after discharge. The Impact of Event Scale (IES) was used at the two follow-up points. During the follow-up period, there were statistically significant increases over child pre-illness levels in parent-rated emotional, conduct, hyperactivity, and impact SDQ scores; the most significant change at 12-mo follow-up was an increase in impact on daily living scores. At 12 mos, five (11%) of 43 children were at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. The strongest correlations of 12-mo child psychological symptoms (total SDQ scores)--in addition to premorbid total SDQ score--were illness-related changes in parenting, maternal IES and GHQ scores. At 12 mos, 13 (24%) of 54 mothers and six (15%) of 40 fathers scored at high risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. The strongest correlation of maternal posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (IES scores) was paternal posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Conclusions: Admission to the hospital with meningococcal disease is followed by an increase in psychological symptoms in children at home, some of which are persistent and impairing, and by continuing posttraumatic stress symptoms in a proportion of children and parents. Psychosocial (pre- and postmorbid) factors predict problems at 12-mo follow-up.