What common trauma injury isn't treated at trauma centers? PTSD

Surgeon Steven Ross and coworkers treat a gunshot victim at Cooper University Hospital's trauma center in Camden.

It’s not just military veterans who develop post-traumatic stress disorder. As described in a previous post, what’s known today as PTSD has been observed in people who experienced traumatic events for centuries if not millennia. One relatively common event that can cause PTSD is a serious injury, like from a car accident or a gunshot wound. There are a lot of those. A study of 2,707 surgical trauma patients from across the United States several years ago found that more than a fifth had PTSD one year after their injury.

So why isn’t PTSD screening and referral to treatment the standard of care in trauma centers?  Lois Beckett and colleagues have set out to answer just that question. In a group of articles for ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journalism site, they examine why trauma centers, of which there are quite a few locally, don’t sufficiently address the mental health consequences of traumatic injuries and the burden of PTSD among civilian populations – with a detailed look at the issue in Philadelphia (deep into the piece).

Their work, which is part of a larger series on guns, includes a survey of personnel at 21 trauma centers across the country that asks what, if anything, they do to address PTSD among their patients. The responses – Temple University Hospital said it is developing a program – are posted.

Beckett spent time talking to folks at Healing Hurt People, a program I work for at Drexel University's Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. It provides trauma-focused services to violently injured patients treated at Hahnemann University Hospital and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. (Our own research found that 75% of program participants had PTSD four to six weeks after their injury).

What we see there is reflected in ProPublica's illuminating articles.

Read more about The Public's Health.