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Longitudinal Associations between Pain, Risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms, and Pain Characteristics in Children After Unintentional Injury.

OBJECTIVES: Around 20% of children demonstrate persistent posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) after unintentional injury, with more severe pain intensity predicting concurrent and later PTSS. Examining additional pain characteristics like pain behaviors, impairment related to pain, and subjective experiences of pain might provide additional insight into the mechanisms that reinforce relationships between risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), PTSS, and pain.

METHODS: During hospitalization for unintentional injury, the Screening Tool for Predictors of PTSD (STEPP) was administered and highest pain score was collected. One month later, the Child PTSD Symptom Scale and PROMIS questionnaires assessed PTSS and pain characteristics respectively, including intensity, interference, behaviors, and quality.

RESULTS: Correlations between PTSS and PROMIS questionnaires were significant. STEPP predicted future PTSS and all PROMIS questionnaires. Highest pain score predicted future PTSS, as well as pain interference and pain behavior, and did not predict pain intensity and pain quality. When STEPP and highest pain score were combined into a single regression, STEPP and highest pain score predicted future PTSS but only STEPP continued to predict all PROMIS questionnaires.

DISCUSSION: PTSD risk significantly predicted PTSS and pain characteristics one month later. Highest pain score predicted future PTSS and several pain characteristics but no longer had predictive value for pain-related outcomes when combined with PTSD risk. These results indicate that risk factors for PTSD are stronger predictors than pain-related risk factors in predicting pain outcomes. Addressing PTSD risk, as well as pain intensity during hospitalization, may result in improved outcomes for children with unintentional injury.

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