Early Screening for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression Among Injured Emergency Department Patients: A Feasibility Study

Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Nov;26(11):1232-1244. doi: 10.1111/acem.13816. Epub 2019 Jul 14.


Background: Despite the risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and associated comorbidities after physical injury, few emergency departments (EDs) in the United States screen for the presence of psychological symptoms and conditions. Barriers to systematic screening could be overcome by using a tool that is both comprehensive and brief. This study aimed to determine 1) the feasibility of screening for posttraumatic sequelae among adults with minor injury in the ED and 2) the relationship between ED screening and later psychological symptoms and poor quality of life (QOL) at 6 weeks postinjury.

Methods: In the EDs of two Level I trauma centers, we enrolled injured patients (n = 149) who reported serious injury and/or life threat in the past 24 hours. Subjects completed the Posttraumatic Adjustment Scale (PAS) to screen for PTSD and depression in the ED, and 6 weeks later they completed assessments for symptoms of PTSD, depression, and trauma-specific QOL (T-QoL).

Results: Our retained sample at 6 weeks was 84 adults (51.2% male; mean ± SD age = 33 ± 11.88 years); 38% screened positive for PTSD, and 76% screened positive for depression in the ED. Controlling for age, hospital admission, and ED pain score, regression analyses revealed that a positive ED screen for both PTSD and depression was significantly associated with 6 weeks PTSD (p = 0.027, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.92 to 15.14) and depressive symptoms (p = 0.001, 95% CI = 2.20 to 7.74), respectively. Further, a positive ED screen for depression (p = 0.043, 95% CI = -16.66 to -0.27) and PTSD (p = 0.015, 95% CI = -20.35 to -2.24) was significantly associated with lower T-QoL.

Conclusions: These results suggest that it is feasible to identify patients at risk for postinjury sequelae in the ED; screening for mental health risk may identify patients in need of early intervention and further monitoring.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Trauma Centers
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*