Health Watch -- Bone Injury Trauma

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Bones may not be the only things that need to heal after a traumatic injury.

Even after broken bones have healed, some patients who have had serious injuries may not feel fully recovered and ready to return to their daily routines. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas found that many patients who have had broken bones due to a traumatic injury also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness in people who have experienced a traumatic event in which they were seriously injured or witnessed or feared death. They may have lingering problems even after the physical wounds have healed, including feelings of fear, helplessness or horror. They may also have nightmares or flashbacks about the traumatic events.

UT Southwestern orthopaedic surgery researchers surveyed a group of people with broken bones from events like falls, car wrecks, bicycle accidents and horseback riding accidents. They used a questionnaire based on one designed to detect post-traumatic stress in people who have been through combat. About half of the patients surveyed were found to have some degree of post-traumatic stress. The more serious the injury, the more severe the post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Adam Starr, the UT Southwestern orthopaedic surgeon who led the study, says treating post-traumatic stress in injury patients while treating their physical injuries has enormous implications for treating orthopaedic trauma. More research is needed to find the best ways to identify and treat injury patients with post-traumatic stress.

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June 2004

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