Authors: Wendy Beaudoin; Hanna Moore; Vivek Mehta; Jenny Souster; Lori Bliss (Edmonton, Canada)
Background: Having a child receive an acute neurosurgical diagnosis can create significant stress and anxiety in caregivers. Caregivers often report stress and anxiety symptoms similar to those associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the incidence of PTSD within primary caregivers of pediatric patients undergoing neurosurgical treatment at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. To our knowledge this is the first study examining the incidence of PTSD specifically within neurosurgical caregiver populations. Methods: A quantitative prospective cross-sectional survey method was utilized. Surveys were distributed both in person at and online between December 2018 and April 2019. Levels of PTSD were quantified using the Posttraumatic Stress Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). Results: 168 neurosurgical caregivers were included in this study, according to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, 44% (n= 74) screened positively for PTSD which is significantly higher than reported in other pediatric PTSD studies. The caregivers identified in this study as having PTSD experienced a high level of disturbing memories, physical reactions to the events including being hyper alert, and avoiding reminders of the experience. Caregivers also had a loss of interest in activities, felt distant from other people, and experienced difficulty with concentration and sleep. Specific neurosurgical diagnosis (p=0.017) and number of surgeries (p=0.002) significantly impacted the rate of PTSD in this population. There was no significant relationship between caregivers who identified having a high level of anxiety before their child was diagnosed and the incidence of PTSD. Conclusion: The study has found a significantly higher level of PTSD in this caregiver population than had previously been reported in other pediatric populations. This study highlights the need for mental health services for a significant portion of pediatric neurosurgical caregivers.