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Keywords:

  • Post-deployment screening; PDHRA;
  • diagnostic efficiency;
  • MDD;
  • PTSD;
  • alcohol abuse;
  • PC-PTSD

Objective

To conduct a blinded study to examine the diagnostic efficiency of the Department of Defense (DoD) Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) screens for major depressive disorder (MDD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol abuse.

Method

Participants were 148 post-deployed soldiers who were completing the PDHRA protocol. Soldiers’ mean age was 27.7 (standard deviation = 6.6) years, and 89.0% were male. Mental health professionals blinded to the PDHRA screening results administered the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition directly after the PDHRA assessment protocol.

Results

All screens exhibited excellent negative predictive power. Sensitivity metrics were lower, consistent with the relatively low base rates observed for MDD (10.1%), PTSD (8.8%), and alcohol abuse (5.4%). Metrics obtained for the PTSD screen were consistent with previous research with a similar base rate. A two-item screen containing PTSD reexperiencing and hyperarousal symptom items revealed excellent psychometric properties (sensitivity = .92; specificity = .79). The alcohol abuse screen yielded high sensitivity (.86), but very poor precision; these metrics were somewhat improved when the screen was reduced to a single item.

Conclusions

The PDHRA MDD, PTSD, and alcohol abuse screens appear to be functioning well in accurately ruling out these diagnoses, consistent with a population-level screening program. Cross validation of the current results is indicated. Additional refinement may yield more sensitive screening measures within constraints imposed by the low base rates in a typically healthy population.