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Psychological Impact of Traumatic Injuries: What the Surgeon Can Do

Rusch, Mark D. Ph.D.; Gould, Lisa J. M.D.; Dzwierzynski, William W. M.D.; Larson, David L. M.D.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: January 2002 - Volume 109 - Issue 1 - p 18–24

In their treatment of accident and assault victims, plastic surgeons have unique opportunities to identify and refer patients with posttraumatic stress symptoms. This article describes brief assessments that surgeons or their clinic staff can use to evaluate traumatically injured adults and children for trauma‐related psychological symptoms. An immediate postinjury evaluation (within 10 days of the trauma) consists of 11 questions to determine the presence of the following risk factors for posttrauma maladjustment: panic during or immediately after the trauma, reexperiencing symptoms, avoidance, sleep disturbance, injury from an assault, previous trauma and psychiatric history, and blaming someone else for the injury. The seven follow‐up interview questions assess reexperiencing symptoms, avoidance, trauma‐related phobias, depression, irritability, and increased substance use, all of which, if present, suggest psychological impairment. Questions recommended for the evaluation of younger children assess changes in play and recreational activity, sleep disturbance, night terror, aggression, irritability, avoidance, emergence of new fears, and loss of recently acquired developmental skills. The assessments require less than 2 minutes and are easily integrated into the hospital or clinic examinations of these patients. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 109: 18, 2002.)

Milwaukee, Wis.

From the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Mark D. Rusch, Ph.D. Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Received for publication December 29, 1999; revised March 20, 2001.

The Medical College of Wisconsin 9200 West Wisconsin Avenue Milwaukee, Wis. 53226

©2002American Society of Plastic Surgeons