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Systematic psychosocial screening in a paediatric cardiology clinic: clinical utility of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17

  • Kari L. Struemph (a1), Lydia R. Barhight (a1), Deepika Thacker (a2) (a3) and Erica Sood (a1) (a2) (a3)



To examine the clinical utility of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17 for identifying psychosocial concerns and improving access to psychology services within a paediatric cardiology clinic.


Parents of 561 children (aged 4–17 years) presenting for follow-up of CHD, acquired heart disease, or arrhythmia completed the Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17 as part of routine care; three items assessing parental (1) concern for learning/development, (2) questions about adjustment to cardiac diagnosis, and (3) interest in discussing concerns with a behavioural healthcare specialist were added to the questionnaire. A psychologist contacted the parents by phone if they indicated interest in speaking with a behavioural healthcare specialist.


Percentages of children scoring above clinical cut-offs for externalising (10.5%), attention (8.7%), and total (9.3%) problems were similar to a “normative” primary-care sample, whereas fewer children in this study scored above the cut-off for internalising problems (7.8%; p<0.01). Sociodemographic, but not clinical, characteristics were associated with Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17 scores. 17% of the parents endorsed concerns about learning/development, and 20% endorsed questions about adjustment to diagnosis. History of cardiac surgery was associated with increased concern about learning/development (p<0.01). Only 37% of the parents expressing psychosocial concerns reported interest in speaking with a psychologist.


The Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17 may not be sensitive to specific difficulties experienced by this patient population. A questionnaire with greater focus on learning/development and adjustment to diagnosis may yield improved utility. Psychology integration in clinics serving high-risk cardiac patients may decrease barriers to behavioural healthcare services.


Corresponding author

Correspondence to: E. Sood, PhD, Nemours Cardiac Center, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, 1600 Rockland Road, Wilmington, DE 19803, United States of America. Tel: 302 651 6304; Fax: 302 651 5345; E-mail:


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Systematic psychosocial screening in a paediatric cardiology clinic: clinical utility of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17

  • Kari L. Struemph (a1), Lydia R. Barhight (a1), Deepika Thacker (a2) (a3) and Erica Sood (a1) (a2) (a3)


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