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The efficacy of initial hydrocortisone administration at preventing posttraumatic distress in adult trauma patients: a randomized trial

  • Douglas L. Delahanty (a1) (a2), Crystal Gabert-Quillen (a1), Sarah A. Ostrowski (a3), Nicole R. Nugent (a4), Beth Fischer (a5), Adam Morris (a1), Roger K. Pitman (a6), John Bon (a7) and William Fallon (a2)...



Secondary pharmacological interventions have shown promise at reducing the development of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSS) in preclinical studies. The present study examined the preliminary efficacy of a 10-day low-dose (20 mg bid) course of hydrocortisone at preventing PTSS in traumatic injury victims.


Sixty-four traumatic injury patients (34% female) were randomly assigned in a double-blind protocol to receive either a 10-day course of hydrocortisone or placebo initiated within 12 hours of the trauma. One-month and 3-months posttrauma participants completed an interview to assess PTSS and self-report measures of depression and health-related quality of life.


Hydrocortisone recipients reported fewer PTSD and depression symptoms, and had greater improvements in health-related quality of life during the first 3 months posttrauma than did placebo recipients. Hydrocortisone recipients who had never received prior mental health treatment had the lowest PTSD scores.


Low-dose hydrocortisone may be a promising approach to the prevention of PTSD in acutely injured trauma patients, and may be particularly efficacious in acutely injured trauma victims without a history of significant psychopathology.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Douglas Delahanty, Department of Psychology, 144 Kent Hall, Kent, OH 44242, USA. (Email


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Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (R34 MH73014) and the Ohio Board of Regents.



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The efficacy of initial hydrocortisone administration at preventing posttraumatic distress in adult trauma patients: a randomized trial

  • Douglas L. Delahanty (a1) (a2), Crystal Gabert-Quillen (a1), Sarah A. Ostrowski (a3), Nicole R. Nugent (a4), Beth Fischer (a5), Adam Morris (a1), Roger K. Pitman (a6), John Bon (a7) and William Fallon (a2)...


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