The Need for Psychiatric Evaluation Following Trauma Surgery

Level 1 trauma centers receive and treat trauma patients through a myriad of medical approaches. Admission to a trauma center can be prompted by a variety of reasons.  Many individuals receive care at a trauma center for a life-threatening injury as a result of an accident, a violent act, or other event. Because of this, psychiatric professionals are available to assist survivors with their emotional needs when they arrive. However, for those who require surgery because of their injuries, there may be a need for continuing psychiatric assessment postoperation.

Erich J. Conrad, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry at Louisiana State University School of Medicine recently led a study that revealed a high rate of psychological stress among surgery patients at a level 1 trauma center. Although some may receive psychiatric care prior to surgery, many do not. Therefore, once they are discharged, their psychological issues may persist and if left untreated, result in negative consequences for them and others.

Conrad’s study involved 25 postsurgical clients. They were evaluated for posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, and alcohol dependence. Further, Conrad asked the participants about their level of victimization and perpetration. He found that when he assessed the participants, over half of them had PTSD, almost half had depression, and 20% had alcohol dependence. Conrad also discovered that perpetration, which was reported by 48% of the participants, was almost as prevalent as victimization, reported in 60% of the participants.

The results of this study clearly reveal a high level of psychological symptoms in clients receiving surgery for trauma-related injuries. Despite the symptoms reported by these participants, many may have been reluctant to fully disclose their feelings. This could indicate a potentially higher level of perpetration, victimization, and even psychological distress that might not be accurately represented in these findings. Additionally, the sample size in Conrad’s study was rather small, further limiting the results. “However,” added Conrad, “This study does support and highlights the need of embedding psychiatric consultation services into this type of clinic.”

Conrad, Erich J., MD, et al. (2013). Assessment of psychiatric symptoms at a level I trauma center surgery follow-up clinic: A preliminary report. The American Surgeon 79.5 (2013): 492-4. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Michelle


    September 5th, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    Good grief! These poor people! First they experience the pain of surgery, and from a traumatic event nonetheless, and then to have to go through these after effects as well? Yes, they deserve lots of observation and treatment afterwards.

  • KJP


    September 7th, 2013 at 4:55 AM

    Extended care? Checking on your mental state before releasing you to go home? Hmmmm although that makes sense to oh, pretty much everyone but those in the medical field (or should I say the insurance providers) I would pretty much say that none of us have never witenessed too much of that at work

  • cheryl


    September 9th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    The general consensus has usually been save the p0hysical part of the eprson first and then you can heal the mental side, and I get that. But all too often the mental state gets completely ignored and then the person is left to founder, perhaps wondering what on earth happened, why they were spared, or how they are supposed to live this new life that may have been carved out for them as a result of this trauma. These are the things that aren’t being addressed. We are doing a great job saving lives on a physical level but in other ways patients are being left on their own and many of them are struggling to find their way after a trauma like this.

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