Recent advances in pediatric therapeutic technology have led to a significant increase in the number of children receiving treatment in pediatric intensive care units (PICU). Similarly, preterm births, which now represent 12-13% of all live births in the United States and which have increased by 31% since 1981, have resulted in increased numbers of hospitalizations in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). While sophisticated use of technology has been a major factor in improving survival rates in the pediatric population, the admission of a child to an intensive care unit is often a stressful event in the lives of their parents. Recently, researchers have identified post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a model to describe and explain the psychological reaction of parents to their PICU and NICU experiences. This model is useful in helping interpret parental reactions and in informing potential preventative and treatment interventions. The current review presents a comprehensive overview of parental traumatic stress reactions and intervention studies in the ICU setting.
Keywords: Pediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care, PTSD, Traumatic Stress Reactions, Disease Control and Prevention, pediatric therapeutic technology, premature infants, long-term morbidity in children, gastrointestinal complications, grief and loss model, posttraumatic stress paradigm, traumatic, traumatic stress, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, chronic traumatic aspects, pregnancy, sub-threshold symptoms, SOURCES OF STRESS, hypersensitive, postpartum depression, ICU treatment, parent-child relationships, motoric immaturity, trauma symptoms, vulnerable child syndrome, maladaption