Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Orthopedic Trauma Patients

A new study suggests post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) is common in patients with orthopedic trauma.

While PTSD is commonly associated with individuals involved in military combat, it can also affect civilian patients. According to a new article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 20% to 51% of patients with an orthopedic injury experience PTSD.

A variety of events can lead to PTSD, including car and motorcycle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, and pedestrian accidents.

A person can begin experiencing PTSD immediately after a traumatic accident, while other individuals may have a delayed reaction of up to six months. No matter when a patient experiences PTSD, it can interfere with his or her ability to heal and resume normal activities, such as going back to work postsurgery. This type of anxiety disorder can affect a patient’s view of his or her own recovery and compromise physical rehabilitation following orthopedic treatment, according to article author Daniel L. Aaron, M.D.

Recognizing PTSD

The sooner patients with PTSD are treated, the sooner they can recover and enjoy full quality of life. Orthopedic surgeons and physicians should thoroughly evaluate all patients for PTSD by looking for changes in patients’ normal behavior, including:

  • anger
  • agitation
  • avoiding places or people who remind them of the traumatic event or accident
  • feeling numb or detached from the accident
  • flashbacks
  • headache
  • insomnia or other sleep-related problems
  • irritability
  • lack of interest in daily activities
  • nightmares or recurrent dreams
  • reluctance to discuss the incident that led to injury
  • trouble concentrating

While PTSD can happen to anyone at any stage of life, some people are more predisposed to experiencing this condition, especially if they are:

  • young
  • female
  • less educated or of a lower socioeconomic status
  • using drugs and alcohol

When left untreated, PTSD can lead to greater problems, such as depression or substance abuse. It is imperative that surgeons and physicians direct patients to the proper treatment, such as psychiatric evaluation or counseling. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, the physical and mental needs of patients can be met, improving overall outcomes.

For the latest research and news about orthopedic approaches and conditions, visit

MD News October 2011


1 comment for “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Orthopedic Trauma Patients”

  1. Gravatar of Brian FlynnBrian Flynn
    Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:42:39 PM

    Hello, I was shot in my left arm almost two years ago, Ive had four surgeries to date. The last one was in November of 2011. My orthopedic Dr. anticipates more surgeries. Since my injury I have fell into a very bad place. I have no idea where my life is going, and im scared. My doctor is fantastic, but no one seemed tobe able to help me with the emotional problems im facing, and my local resources seem either unable or unwilling to treat me. If any one reads this, please help, I need help and have no idea where to go.


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