Trauma Injury

PTSD is a common trauma injury rarely treated at trauma centers.

The Mayo Clinic organization defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying or traumatic event.”  The symptoms may include “flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”  They continue to state that “many people who go through a trauma injury have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.  Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder can take place after any traumatic event.  It’s not just veterans of the army who can develop PTSD. Philly.com.com’s Jonathan Purtle writes that a relatively common event that can cause PTSD is a serious injury, like from a car accident. He cites a study that stated of 2,707 surgical trauma patients from across the United States, more than 20 percent had PTSD one year after their injury.  Even with more than a fifth of the people who go to a trauma facility after a trauma injury suffering from PTSD, PTSD is not a standard of care treatment in emergency facilities. Lois Beckett of ProPublica.org explains why.

1)  Cost

Paying for additional hospital staff to screen patients for PTSD and connect them with treatment may only cost $100,000 or $200,000 a year.  This might seem like a small amount, but today many hospitals are penny pinching, and do not want to take on any new expense.

2)  Difficulty with continuation of treatment

Another barrier to screening patients for PTSD is lack of mental health professionals in many communities.  Finding mental health treatment can be challenging even for patients with health insurance, and for the uninsured, finding treatment can be extremely frustrating.  Many trauma injury centers state that if they could find individuals treatment, then they would be more likely to screen for PTSD.

3)  Public uninformed about PTSD

If more patients knew how common PTSD is, the patients might petition that something be done.

4)  The medical community is only beginning to realize how many people are affected by PTSD.

Dr. Michael Foreman said the study “dramatically” changed his perspective on PTSD.  He continued that he did not “know if his patients were trying to be nice to me and didn’t want to, quote, ‘bother’” or if he “just wasn’t asking the right questions.”  He was surprised to hear how many people suffered from PTSD.

Local hospitals in Philadelphia are taking the study seriously.  As the medical community and public becomes more aware of how prevalent PTSD is in victims of traumatic injury, the more likely it is for treatment of PTSD to be part of the standard of care in the future.

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