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Curationis. 2003 Aug;26(2):44-8.

Treatment utilisation and trauma characteristics of child and adolescent inpatients with posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Department of Nursing, University of the Western Cape.



Few empirical studies have addressed the impact of trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on treatment utilisation and outcome in South African youth. This study was undertaken to document demographic, clinical, and treatment characteristics of child and adolescent inpatients with PTSD.


A retrospective chart study of all patients presenting to a child and adolescent inpatient unit was conducted between 1994-1996. For children and adolescents diagnosed with PTSD; demographic, diagnostic and treatment variables, including trauma type, family history, and delays in treatment seeking, were documented.


Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town.


Children and adolescents (2 to 18 years) presenting to an inpatient unit (n = 737).


10.3% (n = 76) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Gender differences were clearly evident: PTSD was six times more prevalent in girls (65 with PTSD were female and 11 were male); girls were most likely to have experienced rape or sexual abuse while boys were most likely to have witnessed a killing. Psychotherapy was the most common intervention for PTSD, followed by treatment with a tricyclic antidepressant. 97.4% of children and adolescents who were treated were improved at treatment endpoint. Delays in seeking treatment and problems with the primary support group were highly prevalent.


PTSD is a common disorder that is responsive to treatment with psychotherapy and/or tricyclic antidepressants in child and adolescent inpatients. These findings underscore the importance of early identification and treatment of childhood PTSD in mental health settings, in particular tertiary service institutions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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