Screening and treating hospitalized trauma survivors for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2019 Aug;87(2):440-450. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002370.


Traumatic injury affects over 2.6 million U.S. adults annually and elevates risk for a number of negative health consequences. This includes substantial psychological harm, the most prominent being posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with approximately 21% of traumatic injury survivors developing the disorder within the first year after injury. Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with deficits in physical recovery, social functioning, and quality of life. Depression is diagnosed in approximately 6% in the year after injury and is also a predictor of poor quality of life. The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma suggests screening for and treatment of PTSD and depression, reflecting a growing awareness of the critical need to address patients' mental health needs after trauma. While some trauma centers have implemented screening and treatment or referral for treatment programs, the majority are evaluating how to best address this recommendation, and no standard approach for screening and treatment currently exists. Further, guidelines are not yet available with respect to resources that may be used to effectively screen and treat these disorders in trauma survivors, as well as who is going to bear the costs. The purpose of this review is: (1) to evaluate the current state of the literature regarding evidence-based screens for PTSD and depression in the hospitalized trauma patient and (2) summarize the literature to date regarding the treatments that have empirical support in treating PTSD and depression acutely after injury. This review also includes structural and funding information regarding existing postinjury mental health programs. Screening of injured patients and timely intervention to prevent or treat PTSD and depression could substantially improve health outcomes and improve quality of life for this high-risk population. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Review, level IV.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*