Associations Between Baseline Total PTSD Symptom Severity, Specific PTSD Symptoms, and 3-Month Quality of Life in Neurologically Intact Neurocritical Care Patients and Informal Caregivers

NCJ_cover.pngBy Alex Presciutti, Emma E. Meyers, Mira Reichman & Ana-Maria Vranceanu

First Online: 30 April 2020


The objective is to pilot test the feasibility of assessing severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, as well as specific lower-order PTSD symptoms, experienced during neurological intensive care unit (neuro-ICU) admission and their relationship with 3-month quality of life (QoL) scores in multiple domains (i.e., physical, psychological, social, and environmental) in both patients and caregivers.


Between 2015 and 2016, we enrolled neurologically intact patients and informal caregivers of patients who reported demographics and PTSD symptoms (PTSD Checklist-Specific; PCL-S) during neuro-ICU admission and completed a QoL assessment (World Health Organization Quality of Life; WHOQOL-BREF) 3 months later. Clinical data were extracted from medical records. We ran two bivariate correlation matrices among PTSD symptom dimensions in patients and caregivers. Then, we used multiple linear regression to examine the prospective association of total PCL-S scores with each QoL domain in both patients and caregivers after adjusting for clinically important variables. Next, we explored differential associations between the 4 PTSD symptom dimensions and each QoL domain in both patients and caregivers, adjusting for sex and age.


A total of 70 patients (45.7% women, 84.3% white, mean age 52.08 years) and 64 caregivers (64.1% women, 90.6% white, mean age 53.12 years) were included. PTSD symptom dimensions were moderately strongly correlated among patients (r = 0.65–0.79, p < 0.001) and caregivers (r = 0.55–0.78, p < 0.001). For both patients and caregivers, greater PTSD symptom severity was prospectively associated with lower QoL in all domains (β = − 0.289 to − 0.622; p < 0.05). Our exploratory analysis revealed that greater numbing symptoms were associated with lower psychological QoL in patients (β: − 0.397, p = 0.038), and lower physical (β: − 0.409, p = 0.014), psychological (β: − 0.519, p = 0.001), and social QoL (β: − 0.704, p < 0.001) in caregivers. Greater re-experiencing symptoms were associated with lower physical QoL in both patients (β: − 0.422, p = 0.047) and caregivers (β: − 0.4, p = 0.041).


Our preliminary results indicated that greater severity of PTSD symptoms, and specifically numbing and re-experiencing symptoms, experienced by patients and caregivers during neuro-ICU admission was predictive of worse 3-month QoL. Continued study is needed to identify treatment targets for PTSD and QoL in this population.

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