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Children's post-traumatic stress and the role of memory following admission to intensive care: A review


  • Funding: None.

  • Conflict of interest: None.

Justin Kenardy, CONROD, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Edith Cavell Building, Herston, QLD 4029, Australia. Email:


Although our understanding of children's psychological outcomes following intensive care lags significantly behind advances in medicine, there is a growing awareness that intensive care admission impacts children beyond the boundaries of physical well-being. Intensive care presents a variety of disease-related, treatment-related, and environment-related stressors that may place children at risk of post-traumatic stress (PTS), particularly as children may have limited resources to understand and cope with aspects of the admission, its consequences, or treatment events. This article summarises the current literature on children's PTS responses following intensive care admission with emphasis on: (1) children's experience of intensive care; (2) the prevalence of PTS in children following intensive care admission; (c) factors associated with vulnerability to PTS; and (d) the role of memory and appraisal in the development of children's PTS. Existing research does have methodological limitations, and future studies utilising larger sample sizes and developmentally appropriate diagnostic measures are warranted. Furthermore, longitudinal studies investigating the aetiology and course of PTS following paediatric intensive care unit admission, particularly with further investigation of memory and cognitive factors, may lead to advances in screening, prevention, and early intervention strategies for children.