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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005 Feb;30(2):121-8.

Initial urinary epinephrine and cortisol levels predict acute PTSD symptoms in child trauma victims.

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Department of Psychology, Kent State University, 118 Kent Hall, Kent, OH 44242, USA.



Previous research examining biological correlates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children has suggested that children with chronic PTSD have altered levels of catecholamines and cortisol compared to similarly traumatized children who do not meet diagnostic criteria. The present study extended these findings by examining whether urinary hormone levels collected soon after a trauma were related to subsequent acute PTSD symptoms in child trauma victims.


Initial 12-h urine samples were collected from 82 children aged 8-18 admitted to a Level 1 trauma center. Collection was begun immediately upon admission, and samples were assayed for levels of catecholamines and cortisol. PTSD and depressive symptomatology were assessed 6 weeks following the accident.


Initial urinary cortisol levels were significantly correlated with subsequent acute PTSD symptoms (r=0.31). After removing the variance associated with demographic variables and depressive symptoms, urinary cortisol and epinephrine levels continued to predict a significant percentage (7-10%) of the variance in 6-week PTSD symptoms. Examination of boys and girls separately suggested that significance was primarily driven by the strength of the relationships between hormone levels and acute PTSD symptoms in boys.


The present findings suggest that high initial urinary cortisol and epinephrine levels immediately following a traumatic event may be associated with increased risk for the development of subsequent acute PTSD symptoms, especially in boys.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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