Traumatic stress reactions associated with pediatric medical events were described initially in the mid-1980s. The first large multi-site study of childhood cancer survivors was completed in the mid 1990's and highlighted the significance of traumatic responses in the survivors' mothers and fathers (Kazak et al, 1997). The first studies documenting traumatic stress symptoms after pediatric injury were conducted in the late 1990's (DeVries et al. 1997; Daviss et al. 2000).

Doctor and Patient Discussion

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Summary: Pediatric Traumatic Stress Studies Prevalence and Etiology

A recent meta-analysis of pediatric traumatic stress studies found rates of pediatric medical traumatic stress (PMTS) are approximately 30% when subclinical post traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are included. These rates show decline in symptomology as time passes from the initial injury or illness diagnosis (Price et al., 2015).

Risk factors for persistent traumatic stress reactions include prior traumatic experiences or behavioral problems, more severe pain or exposure to frightening sights and sounds while in the hospital, subjective sense of life threat and injury / illness severity, and more severe early traumatic stress reactions. Parent presence and support, as well as a positive peer support system, appear to serve as protective factors.

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Pediatric Traumatic Stress Studies Summary: Prevention and Intervention Research

Since 2005, research from pediatric traumatic stress studies continues to make great strides forward in the development of screening tools, early and brief interventions and web based interventions for pediatric medical traumatic stress.

Promising screening tools have been developed to identify injured children at higher risk for persistent traumatic stress, and families of children with cancer with greater need for psychosocial support.

Programs of preventive intervention for families of children with a new cancer diagnosis, and children hospitalized for traumatic injury, have been developed. Preliminary evidence supports the utility of these interventions, and more pediatric traumatic stress studies focused on prevention and intervention are underway.

Research data supports the use of treatment programs specifically designed to address cancer-related traumatic stress in teen cancer survivors and their families, and cognitive-behavioral therapy for children with traumatic stress related to acute medical events.

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