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Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Trajectories in Family Caregivers of Patients With Acute Cardiorespiratory Failure.
Overall, 1 in 3 family caregivers of patients who require intensive care unit (ICU) admission will experience significant posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSSs), but little is known about how PTSSs evolve over time. Measuring PTSS trajectories could facilitate the development of targeted interventions to improve mental health outcomes for family caregivers of critically ill patients.

To measure 6-month PTSS trajectories among caregivers of patients with acute cardiorespiratory failure.

Design, Setting, and Participants
This prospective cohort study was conducted in the medical ICU of a large academic medical center among adult patients requiring (1) vasopressors for shock, (2) high-flow nasal cannula, (3) noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, or (4) invasive mechanical ventilation. Each patient was enrolled along with their primary caregiver, ie, the unpaid individual who provided the most physical, emotional, or financial support prior to ICU admission.

Main Outcomes and Measures
Family caregiver PTSSs were assessed using the Impact of Events Scale-Revised within 48 hours of ICU admission, following ICU discharge, and 3 and 6 months after enrollment. Latent class growth analysis was used to measure PTSS trajectories. Preselected patient and caregiver characteristics measured at ICU admission were analyzed for association with trajectory membership. Six-month patient and caregiver outcomes were analyzed by caregiver trajectory.

Overall, 95 family caregivers were enrolled and provided baseline data; mean (SD) age was 54.2 (13.6) years, 72 (76%) were women, 22 (23%) were Black individuals, and 70 (74%) were White individuals. Three trajectories were identified: persistently low (51 caregivers [54%]), resolving (29 [31%]), and chronic (15 [16%]). Low caregiver resilience, prior caregiver trauma, high patient severity of illness, and good patient premorbid functional status were associated with the chronic trajectory. Caregivers with the chronic PTSS trajectory had worse 6-month health-related quality of life (mean [SD] total 36-item Short Form Survey score, persistently low trajectory: 104.7 [11.3]; resolving trajectory: 101.7 [10.4]; chronic trajectory: 84.0 [14.4]; P < .001) and reduced effectiveness at work (mean [SD] perceived effectiveness at work score, persistently low trajectory: 86.0 [24.2]; resolving trajectory: 59.1 [32.7]; chronic trajectory: 72.3 [18.4]; P = .009).

Conclusions and Relevance
In this study, 3 distinct PTSS trajectories among ICU family caregivers were observed, with 16% of caregivers experiencing chronic PTSSs over the subsequent 6 months. Family caregivers with persistent PTSS had lower resilience, prior trauma, higher patient severity of illness, and higher baseline patient functional status compared with family caregivers with persistently low PTSS, with adverse effects on quality of life and work. Identifying these caregivers is an essential first step to develop interventions tailored to those with the greatest need for support.
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