The detection and treatment of posttraumatic distress and substance intoxication in the acute care inpatient setting

Douglas Zatzick, Joan Russo, Frederick Rivara, Peter Roy-Byrne, Gregory Jurkovich, Wayne Katon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Each year, approximately 2.5 million Americans require inpatient admissions after sustaining traumatic physical injuries. Few investigations have assessed the routine detection and treatment of acute care inpatients with high levels of posttraumatic distress. A representative sample of 101 hospitalized patients with acute injuries was screened for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms, as well as substance intoxication. Patients' medical records were reviewed for documentation of psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses and the initiation of early evaluation and treatment. High levels of PTSD and/or depressive symptoms were present in over 50% of patients. Although providers frequently noted symptomatic distress, few symptomatic patients received formal diagnoses, evaluations or treatment. Patients who had positive substance toxicology screens on admission infrequently received in-depth evaluation or treatment. A substantial number of injured trauma survivors have high levels of symptomatic distress that are inconsistently evaluated and treated in the acute care medical setting. Mental health interventions appear to be feasibly and effectively delivered from trauma centers. Therefore, ongoing investigation and policy initiatives informing the detection and treatment of patients with psychiatric disturbances in acute care could substantially enhance the quality of mental health care for injured survivors of individual and mass trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-62
Number of pages6
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute care
  • Depression
  • Detection
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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