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Volume 17 Supplement 4

Sepsis 2013

Does the ICU experience predict psychological symptoms in relatives of patients with severe sepsis and end-of-life decisions?


Severe sepsis is the main cause of death in the ICU. Relatives are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety and depression [1]. The objective is to assess whether the ICU experience may predict these psychological symptoms of relatives at 90 days after the patient's death or discharge.

Materials and methods

Prospective observational study in four ICUs of one university hospital, including all patients with severe sepsis and end-of-life-decisions. At 90 days, the main relative was interviewed with the Impact of Event Scale (to measure PTSD), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and self-developed items on satisfaction with the ICU experience, including medical care and communication in general as well as specifically in the end-of-life context, and decision-making. Three multiple linear regression models were calculated to predict anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress each.


Eighty-four relatives were included. They were mostly female (74%), spouse (42%) or child (42%), median age was 57 years. Seventy-seven percent acted as proxies. After 90 days, 51% relatives were at risk for PTSD, 48% for anxiety and 33% for depression. Overall satisfaction with the ICU experience was high. Relatives' satisfaction with medical care and communication in general predicted lower anxiety (P = 0.025).


Relatives of patients with sepsis have a high psychological burden. Improving communication between ICU staff and relatives may reduce their symptoms of anxiety.


  1. Azoulay E, Pochard F, Kentish-Barnes N, Chevret S, Aboab J, Adrie C, Annane D, Bleichner G, Bollaert PE, Darmon M, Fassier T, Galliot R, Garrouste-Orgeas M, Goulenok C, Goldgran-Toledano D, Hayon J, Jourdain M, Kaidomar M, Laplace C, Larche J, Liotier J, Papazian L, Poisson C, Reignier J, Saidi F, Schlemmer B: Risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms in family members of intensive care unit patients. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005, 171: 987-994. 10.1164/rccm.200409-1295OC

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Funded partly by the German Ministry of Education and Research (grant number 01 E0 1002). This investigation was part of a study to improve quality of end-of-life care in the ICU (trial registration NCT01247792).

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Hartog, C., Schwarzkopf, D., Skupin, H. et al. Does the ICU experience predict psychological symptoms in relatives of patients with severe sepsis and end-of-life decisions?. Crit Care 17 (Suppl 4), P60 (2013).

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  • Medical Care
  • Multiple Linear Regression
  • Severe Sepsis
  • Linear Regression Model
  • Event Scale