Depression and PTSD among Family Members of ICU Care Associated with Symptoms of those who Die in the ICU


Erin K. Kross, Ruth A. Engelberg, Cynthia J. Gries, Elizabeth L. Nielsen, Douglas Zatzick and J. Randall Curtis



Chest 2011 Apr;139(4):795-801 



Introduction: psychological symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are relatively common among family members of patients dying in the ICU. The patient-level risk factors for these family symptoms are not well understood, but may help target future interventions.

Methods: we performed a cohort study of family members of patients who died in the ICU or within 30 hours of ICU transfer. Outcomes included self-reported symptoms of PTSD and depression. Predictors included patient demographics and elements of palliative care.

Results: 226 patients had chart abstraction and family questionnaire data. Family members of older patients had lower scores for PTSD (p=0.026). Family members that were present at the time of death (p= 0.021) and family members of patients with early family conferences (p = 0.012) reported higher symptoms of PTSD. When withdrawal of a ventilator was ordered, family members reported lower symptoms of depression (p=0.033). There were no other patient characteristics or elements of palliative care associated with family symptoms.

Conclusions: family members of younger patients and those for whom mechanical ventilation is not withdrawn are at increased risk of psychological symptoms and may represent an important group for intervention. Increased PTSD symptoms among family present at the time of death may reflect a closer relationship or more involvement in ICU care among these family members, but also suggests that family should be offered the option of not being present.



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