University of Pennsylvania researchers report they have developed a simple survey to predict if an injury will result in depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Therese S. Richmond, Ph.D., C.R.N.P., said the simple eight-question survey can help the 30 million Americans seeking hospital treatment for injuries each year.

“Depression and PTSD exert a significant, independent, and persistent effect on general health, work status, somatic symptoms, adjustment to illness, and function after injury,” the authors said.

The experts emphasize that even minor injuries can lead to traumatic stress responses. The screen will allow health care providers to identify patients at highest risk for developing these disorders and to target appropriate resources for this vulnerable group.

The screening tool is the first of its kind for adults in the United States.

Experts say that widespread implementation could have a significant impact on the judicious allocation of costly mental health resources.

All injured patients can be rapidly assessed for risk in the hospital with the screen. Health care providers can then provide patients classed as high-risk for developing depression or PTSD with information about symptoms to look for and advise them to contact their primary care provider should symptoms surface.

This intervention can facilitate early diagnosis of these disabling disorders.

According to the research, the study is reliable in screening individuals not at risk for PTSD. That is, only five percent of injured patients who tested negative for risk of depression on the screening survey developed depression and no patients who tested negative for PTSD risk developed PTSD.

At the same time, not all patients who screen positive will develop these disorders.

Nevertheless, researchers do not suggest that all patients who screen positive receive mental health services, but rather that this finding should prompt professionals to distribute health information and schedule for additional follow-up.

The authors caution that while the findings of this initial study are most promising, they need to be replicated in an independent sample.

Study findings are published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

Source: University Of Pennsylvania