PTSD Patients Suffer From Increased Risk of Comorbidities

MAY 06, 2018
Jenna Payesko
Viviana Chiappetta, MD
In a presentation at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting held in New York City, a new study found that medical comorbidities are highly prevalent in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), confirming recent data from the literature.

The study, conducted by researchers at Bronx Lebanon Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, conducted a performance improvement on all newly admitted patients (n=210) to inpatient psychiatry units, located in an inner urban hospital.

Viviana Chiappetta, MD, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, told MD Magazine, that patients with PTSD need more screening and frequent follow-ups to monitor potential/current comorbidities.

Researchers studied a retrospective chart review of adults and children 6–72 years old who were admitted July 1, 2016–Aug. 30, 2016. Baseline data was collected to identify not only the prevalence of PTSD but the medical comorbidities of the patients. Patient’s charts detailed demographic data and clinical characteristics like age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis and medical comorbidities.

Screening questions were designed to gather prevalence of patient’s traumatic experience in the inner urban hospital setting as well as the patient’s clinical characteristics.

Study participants were 54% male and 46% female, and a majority were African American (40%).

Findings concluded that among the comorbidities associated with PTSD symptoms, overweight body-mass index (BMI) 25–29.9 was the highest at 27%. In comparison to recent literature, the researchers learned that PTSD and obesity were found in a naturally representative sample of US adults where 30% of the sample with past year PTSD were obese, versus 24.1% of those without PTSD.

The study found hypertension in 20% and diabetes mellitus in 12% of participants who reported traumatic symptoms. Asthma was also found in 20% of patients. Additionally, recent evidence proved that the incidence of arterial hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias and myocardial infarction were significantly higher than a health control group. Literature attested to the high prevalence rate of diabetes (15.5%) and hypertension (42%) among psychiatric patients in high trauma groups.

The associated PTSD comorbidities represent a significant public health problem that’s associated with increased disease burden and mortality. While it’s evident there’s an increased incidence of comorbidities in patients with PTSD, it’s uncertain how this affects treatment planning and patient’s outcome on the inpatient setting.

PTSD has been associated with increased risk for adverse health conditions like the development of major chronic diseases but the therapeutic implications of treating PTSD as a whole are significant.

Overall, medical comorbidities are found to be highly prevalent in those suffering from PTSD, moreover, routine screening, consistent follow-up and multidisciplinary management of all conditions are needed.

Researchers concluded that future research should focus on the potential role of unknown factors to determine the true prevalence of the disorders in PTSD patients, accentuating the comorbidity between psychiatric diseases and medical conditions.

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