Background: Thirty-five percent of all Emergency Department (ED) visits are for physical injury.
Objectives: To examine the proportion of patients presenting to an ED for physical injury with a history of or current Axis I/II psychiatric disorders and to compare patients with a positive psychiatric history, a negative psychiatric history, and a current psychiatric disorder.
Methods: A total of 275 individuals were selected randomly from adults presenting to the ED with a documented anatomic injury but with normal physiology. Exclusion criteria were: injury in the previous 2 years or from medical illness or domestic violence; or reported treatment for major depression or psychoses. Psychiatric history and current disorders were diagnosed using the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), a structured psychiatric interview. Three groups (positive psychiatric history, negative psychiatric history, current psychiatric disorder) were compared using Chi-square and analysis of variance.
Results: The sample was composed of men (51.6%) and women (48.4%), with 57.1% Black and 39.6% White. Out of this sample, 103 patients (44.7%) met DSM-IV criteria for a positive psychiatric history (n = 80) or a current psychiatric disorder (n = 43). A past history of depression (24%)exceeded the frequency of a history of other disorders (anxiety, 6%; alcohol use/abuse, 14%; drug use/abuse, 15%; adjustment, 23%; conduct disorders, 14%). Current mood disorders (47%) also exceeded other current diagnoses (anxiety, 9%; alcohol, 16%; drug, 7%; adjustment, 7%; personality disorders, 12%). Those with a current diagnosis were more likely to be unemployed (p <.001) at the time of injury.
Conclusions: Psychiatric comorbid disorders or a positive psychiatric history was found frequently in individuals with minor injury. An unplanned contact with the healthcare system (specifically an ED) for treatment of physical injury offers an opportunity for nurses to identify patients with psychiatric morbidity and to refer patients for appropriate therapy.