Original article| Volume 50, ISSUE 12, P978-985, December 15, 2001

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The effect of stress doses of hydrocortisone during septic shock on posttraumatic stress disorder in survivors


      Background: Exposure to intense physical and psychological stress during septic shock can result in posttraumatic stress disorder in survivors. Patients with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder often show sustained reductions in serum cortisol concentration. This investigation examines whether increasing serum cortisol levels with hydrocortisone treatment during septic shock reduces the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder in survivors.
      Methods: Patients (n = 20) were recruited from a prospective, randomized double-blind study on the hemodynamic effects of hydrocortisone during septic shock. Eleven patients had received placebo and nine stress doses of hydrocortisone. Posttraumatic stress disorder was diagnosed 31 months (median) after intensive care unit discharge using SCID-IV (DSM-IV-criteria). Furthermore, the number of categories of traumatic memory from ICU treatment was determined in both groups at that time.
      Results: Only one of nine patients from the hydrocortisone group developed posttraumatic stress disorder, compared with seven of 11 patients in the placebo group (p = .02). There was no significant difference with regard to the number of categories of traumatic memory between the hydrocortisone and placebo groups.
      Conclusions: The administration of hydrocortisone during septic shock in a dosage similar to the endogenous maximal production rate was associated with a lower incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder in long-term survivors, which seems to be independent of the number of categories of traumatic memory.


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