Conference Coverage

Brief screen helps identify patients with PTSD, depression


WAIKOLOA, HAWAII – A new nine-item tool known as the Injured Trauma Survivor Screen demonstrated strong sensitivity and specificity for predicting posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in trauma patients.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Terri deRoon-Cassini, PhD, said that the rates of PTSD among trauma patients range from 10% to 42%, depending on the type of injury sustained. “There is significant life impairment, including an increased risk for suicide and an increased risk for morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. deRoon-Cassini, a clinical psychologist and associate professor with the division of trauma and critical care at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

The ACS Committee on Trauma currently recommends PTSD screening by trauma centers, including the 20-item PTSD Checklist and the nine-item PHD-9 for depression. However, these symptom-based screens were not validated in hospitalized trauma patients. “This becomes important, because according to the symptom trajectory of PTSD after trauma, about 22% of people experience chronic disease and about 16%-18% of people who have symptoms at baseline do not translate to symptoms by 6 months, so screening with a symptom-based measure isn’t always the best route,” she said.

Doug Brunk/Frontline Medical News

Dr. Terri deRoon-Cassini

In an effort to create a brief screening tool to identify those at risk for PTSD and depression following traumatic injury, Dr. deRoon-Cassini and her associates scoured existing medical literature on the topic to review risk factors and created an item pool of questions based on those risk factors. They came up with 47 items and statistically “funneled out the items to create the most parsimonious model predicting who goes on to develop PTSD and depression separately,” she explained. They then created the Injured Trauma Survivor Screen (ITSS), a nine-item list of yes/no questions that takes about 5 minutes to administer: five items for PTSD and five items for depression, with one item that overlaps. The five ITSS PTSD questions are:

• Did you think you were going to die? (risk factor being perceived life threat; odds ratio 6.32).

• Do you think this was done to you intentionally? (risk factor being intentionality; OR, 4.24).

• Have you felt more restless, tense, or jumpy than usual? (risk factor being assessment of arousal; OR, 5.31).

• Have you found yourself unable to stop worrying? (risk factor being worry/rumination; OR, 4.49).

• Do you find yourself thinking that the world is unsafe and that people are not to be trusted? (risk factor being negative alterations in cognition; OR, 5.52).

The five ITSS depression questions are:

• Have you ever taken medication for, or been given a mental health diagnosis? (risk factor being preexisting psychopathology; OR, 10.58).

• Has there ever been a time in your life you have been bothered by feeling down or hopeless or lost all interest in things you usually enjoyed for more than 2 weeks? (risk factor being premorbid depression; OR, 3.78).

• Did you think you were going to die? (risk factor being perceived life threat; OR, 9.69).

• Have you felt emotionally detached from your loved ones? (risk factor being negative alteration in mood; OR, 8.03).

• Do you find yourself crying and are unsure why? (risk factor being mood/depression; OR, 9.18).

The researchers administered the survey to 139 patients at two trauma centers. More than half (69%) were male, 48% were white, 40% were African American, and the remainder were from other ethnic backgrounds. The three most common mechanisms of injury were motor vehicle crashes (29%), motorcycle/all-terrain vehicle crashes (19%), and falls (13%). Dr. deRoon-Cassini reported that administration of the ITSS within 4 days of injury demonstrated a 75% sensitivity for identifying the risk for PTSD and depression, a 94% specificity for PTSD, and a 96% specificity for depression, with a cutoff score of 2 out of 5 for both subscales based on a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis.

One month following administration of the ITSS, 20% of patients were diagnosed with depression and 29% were diagnosed with PTSD. Of those diagnosed with PTSD, 55% met criteria for concomitant depression “so we are seeing a high comorbidity between PTSD and depression, which is consistent with the medical literature,” she said.

“The ITSS represents a brief way that we can screen for PTSD and depression within a trauma system,” Dr. deRoon-Cassini said. “At our institution, social workers administer the tool. They have a flow sheet in our EMR system where they enter the responses. If someone screens positive, a best practice recommendation is put into the patient’s chart, which gets funneled to a trauma psychology consult. On the treatment side we try to intervene by triaging the severity of the current distress the person is experiencing, past comorbidities, and past trauma histories. From there we decide whether to do a brief intervention or more intensive evidence-based interventions for PTSD or depression together or separately.”

The study was funded by a grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Coauthors included Joshua Hunt, PhD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Ann Marie Warren, PhD, of Baylor Medical Center, Dallas; and Karen Brasel, MD, FACS, of Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. Dr. deRoon-Cassini reported having no financial disclosures.

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