Parental Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in the Context of Pediatric Post Intensive Care Syndrome: Impact on the Family and Opportunities for Intervention

Clin Pract Pediatr Psychol. 2021 Jun;9(2):156-166. doi: 10.1037/cpp0000399.


Objective: Pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) survivors and their families experience ongoing impacts on physical, cognitive, and psychosocial functioning, described as Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). The objective of this study was to determine whether the posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) of parents predict the impact of critical illness on families following PICU admission beyond other factors (e.g., sex, race/ethnicity, age, insurance status, illness severity, family involvement or death).

Method: We conducted a retrospective analysis of data from 88 children aged 1 month to 18 years who were hospitalized with critical illness and acquired brain injury in the PICU and their families. Patients and their families participated in a 1-3 month post-discharge follow-up assessment, during which data on demographics, medical diagnoses, parent self-report of PTSS, and family impact of critical illness (via the Pediatric Quality of Life Family Impact Module) were collected. We used a hierarchical linear regression to determine whether parent PTSS predicted family impact above and beyond demographic and injury/illness factors.

Results: One-third of parents reported elevated PTSS. Among those with complete available data (n = 56), PTSS were the only significant predictor of family impact (β = -.52, t = -3.58, p = .001), with the overall model accounting for 41% of variance.

Conclusion: In addition to the direct effects on parents of children who survive the PICU, PTSS may negatively impact families and interfere with rehabilitative progress. We provide a rationale and conceptual model for integrating interventions designed to address parent PTSS into post-PICU care.

Keywords: critical care; family impact; patient outcome assessment; pediatric; posttraumatic stress.