Imaging optimization needed for patients with PTSD

Optimizing the imaging experience of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is needed to better patient care, according to an article published online Mar. 7 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The psychological distress associated with PTSD proves to be problematic during radiology exams, as they in themselves can invoke sentiments of anxiety, fear and discomfort. Lead author Jessica C. Germino, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues created a quality assessment and improvement project to evaluate their organization’s ability to serve patients with PTSD.

Staff members were given a survey regarding their personal experiences with PTSD, knowledge of the disorder and comfort in adequately and safely meetings the needs of this particular demographic. Eighty percent of the surveys were completed. Responses revealed uncertainty about being able to identify PTSD symptoms, as well as their preparedness to work with them.

Of the 55 percent of respondents who reported that their work environment was configured appropriately to safely accommodate PTSD patients, only 13 percent felt personally prepared to serve these patients.

As a result of these findings, the authors organized a multidisciplinary learning session to present their results and educate staff members. Technologists were encouraged to take extra care in describing an examination and allowing more time complete the study. The researchers decided to slightly change their screening protocol by adding a question about fear and anxiety on their MRI safety sheets, which would then allow for the provider to discuss alternatives with the radiologist.

“We believe optimizing the imaging experience of the patient with PTSD is a valuable area for improved awareness and future research,” wrote Germino and colleagues.