Post-traumatic stress symptoms six months after ICU admission with COVID-19: Prospective observational study

J Clin Nurs. 2024 Jan;33(1):103-114. doi: 10.1111/jocn.16665. Epub 2023 Feb 27.


Aims and objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms, and to identify possible predictive factors in Norwegian intensive care unit survivors, 6 months after admission to the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

Background: The SARS CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 has spread worldwide since it was declared a pandemic in March 2020. The most severely ill patients have been treated in the intensive care due to acute respiratory failure and also acute respiratory distress syndrome. It is well documented that these severe conditions can lead to complex and long-lasting symptoms, such as psychological distress, and was, therefore, investigated for the specific COVID-19 population.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Methods: Clinical data and patient reported outcome measures were collected by the Norwegian Intensive Care and Pandemic Registry and by the study group 6 months after admission to an intensive care unit.

Results: Among 222 COVID-19 patients admitted to Norwegian intensive care units between 10 March and 6 July 2020, 175 survived. The study sample consisted of 131 patients who responded to at least one patient reported outcome measure at 6 months following admission. The primary outcome was self-reported post-traumatic stress symptoms, using the Impact of Event Scale-6 (n = 89). Of those, 22.5% reported post-traumatic stress symptoms 6 months after admission. Female gender, younger age and having a high respiratory rate at admission were statistically significant predictive factors for reporting post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Conclusions: The result is in accordance with previously published research with comparable populations, suggesting that for many COVID-19 survivors psychological distress is a part of the post-acute sequelae. Results from the present study should be replicated in larger datasets.

Relevance to clinical practice: This project provides important insight to post-acute sequelae after COVID-19 that patients may experience after critical illness.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; anxiety; depression; long-COVID; post COVID-19 condition; post-intensive care syndrome; post-traumatic stress; post-traumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology