Purpose: Weaning from prolonged mechanical ventilation may be associated with mental discomfort. It is not known whether such discomfort is linked with the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, we investigated whether PTSD occurs in patients after weaning from prolonged ventilation. We also determined whether administering a questionnaire would identify patients at risk for developing PTSD.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study of patients transferred to a long-term acute-care hospital for weaning from prolonged ventilation was undertaken: 72 patients were studied 1 week after weaning, and 41 patients were studied again 3 months later. An experienced psychologist conducted a structured clinical interview 3 months after weaning to establish a diagnosis of PTSD. To assess for the presence of PTSD-related symptoms, the post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS-10) questionnaire was administered 1 week after weaning and 3 months later.
Results: The psychologist diagnosed PTSD in 12% of patients 3 months after ventilator weaning. Patients who developed PTSD were more likely to have a previous history of psychiatric disorders (P < 0.02). A PTSS-10 score >20 one week after weaning reliably identified patients who were diagnosed with PTSD 3 months later: sensitivity 1.0; specificity 0.76; area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve 0.91.
Conclusion: PTSD was diagnosed in 12% of patients who were weaned from prolonged ventilation. A PTSS-10 score >20 one week after weaning identified patients diagnosed with PTSD 3 months later. This finding suggests that a simple questionnaire administered before hospital discharge can identify patients at risk for developing PTSD.