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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.