Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Post-traumatic stress disorder symptomology associated with witnessing unsuccessful out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to assess symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with witnessing unsuccessful out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a family member.

METHODS: Adult family members of deceased, adult, nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims who were transported to a large, Midwestern hospital were contacted by telephone beginning 1 month after the event. Subjects were dichotomized as to whether or not they were physically present during the patient's resuscitation. A structured interview obtained the patient's prearrest functioning, whether the family member witnessed or performed CPR, patient and family demographic data, key cardiac arrest events, and a measure of subject PTSD symptoms (PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview [PSS-I]).

RESULTS: There were 34 witnesses and 20 nonwitnesses. Each group was similar in race, religion, age, gender, and relationship to the patient. Patients in each group were similar in prearrest functioning. Witnesses' total PTSD symptom scores were nearly two times higher than nonwitnesses (14.47 vs. 7.60, respectively; mean difference = 6.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.57 to 13.17). Two PSS-I subscales were higher for witnesses than nonwitnesses: Avoidance (5.41 vs. 2.25; mean difference = 3.16, 95% CI = 0.74 to 5.58) and Increased Arousal (4.26 vs. 2.20; mean difference = 2.06, 95% CI = 0.08 to 4.05), while Reexperiencing was not (4.79 vs. 3.15; mean difference = 1.64, 95% CI = -0.62 to 3.91). Linear regression analysis indicated that witnessing CPR of a loved one was associated with a mean increase of nearly 12 points on the PSS-I after controlling for the possibility of other potentially influential events and characteristics. Results were similar when CPR providers (n = 6) were removed from the witness group.

CONCLUSIONS: Witnessing a failed CPR attempt of a loved one in an out-of-hospital location may be associated with displaying symptoms of PTSD in the early term of the bereavement period. While preliminary, these data suggest that the relationship exists even after controlling for other potential factors that may also affect the propensity for displaying such symptoms, such as the suddenness and location of the patient's cardiac arrest.

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