Background: Physical impairment is well-known to last for many years after a severe injury, and there is a high impact on the quality of the survivor’s life. The purpose of this study was to examine if this is also true for psychological impairment with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or depression after polytrauma.
Design: Retrospective cohort outcome study.
Setting: Level I trauma centre.
Population: 637 polytrauma trauma patients who were treated at our Level I trauma centre between 1973 and 1990. Minimum follow-up was 10 years after the injury.
Methods: Patients were asked to fill in a questionnaire, including parts of the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale, the Impact of Event Scale-Revised and the German Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, to evaluate mental health. Clinical outcome was assessed before by standardised scores.
Results: Three hundred and twenty-four questionnaires were evaluated. One hundred and forty-nine (45.9%) patients presented with symptoms of mental impairment. Quality of life was significantly higher in the mentally healthy group, while the impaired group achieved a lower rehabilitation status.
Conclusions: Mental impairment can be found in multiple trauma victims, even after 10 years or more. Treating physicians should not only focus on early physical rehabilitation but also focus on early mental rehabilitation to prevent long-term problems in both physical and mental disability.