July 17, 2014
Science Daily/INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale)
Many patients continue to suffer from symptoms (headaches, pain) several months after an accident. Now, a research team has studied the subsequent development of 1,300 people who were admitted to hospital for trauma. The researchers demonstrate that it is possible to identify people who will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which generally occurs when the individual's life was put in danger.
Every year, one in ten people in France are taken to A&E with a trauma following an accident. The large majority of the victims have only mild injuries and are discharged from hospital quickly. However, a number of them continue to suffer long after their direct injuries have healed. They may, for example, have headaches, uncontrollable fear or maladies of various kinds, vision problems, balancing problems or be irritable.When the symptoms occur simultaneously in a single context, they constitute what is called a syndrome.
Following a trauma, two syndromes are described: post-concussion syndrome (PCS), which occurs after a mild cranial trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is encountered in people who have been exposed to a stressful situation wherein their life, or that of another person, was put in danger. Post-traumatic stress disorder was initially described in soldiers who, after exposure to combat or an explosion, complain of nightmares or obsessive thoughts which they are unable to get rid of. The two syndromes have been described for several years in the successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, which is a current standard reference in the area of diagnosis in mental health.
Post-traumatic stress disorder in the general population
The results obtained also make it possible to have a better understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is still insufficiently described for non-military contexts. In the general population, this disorder occurs in 2% of injured people but this figure rises to 9% when the trauma is cranial. However, it is more frequent among women and people who have been in a road accident or have been attacked. The occurrence of PTSD is also influenced by the state of the victim's physical and mental health before the accident. All this information can enable doctors to determine if early treatment should be provided.
This study puts the classification of post-traumatic complaints into question because it also questions the very existence of post-concussion syndrome, which should be seen as only one part of post-traumatic stress disorder. These results do not, however, question the reality of the suffering of a significant number of people affected by this disorder, for whom the symptoms continue to persist and considerably impact the quality of their lives.