Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in 10-20% of injury patients. We developed a novel, self-guided Internet-based intervention (called Trauma TIPS) based on techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to prevent the onset of PTSD symptoms.

To determine whether Trauma TIPS is effective in preventing the onset of PTSD symptoms in injury patients.

Adult, level 1 trauma center patients were randomly assigned to receive the fully automated Trauma TIPS Internet intervention (n=151) or to receive no early intervention (n=149). Trauma TIPS consisted of psychoeducation, in vivo exposure, and stress management techniques. Both groups were free to use care as usual (nonprotocolized talks with hospital staff). PTSD symptom severity was assessed at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months post injury with a clinical interview (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale) by blinded trained interviewers and self-report instrument (Impact of Event Scale—Revised). Secondary outcomes were acute anxiety and arousal (assessed online), self-reported depressive and anxiety symptoms (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and mental health care utilization. Intervention usage was documented.

The mean number of intervention logins was 1.7, SD 2.5, median 1, interquartile range (IQR) 1-2. Thirty-four patients in the intervention group did not log in (22.5%), 63 (41.7%) logged in once, and 54 (35.8%) logged in multiple times (mean 3.6, SD 3.5, median 3, IQR 2-4). On clinician-assessed and self-reported PTSD symptoms, both the intervention and control group showed a significant decrease over time (P<.001) without significant differences in trend. PTSD at 12 months was diagnosed in 4.7% of controls and 4.4% of intervention group patients. There were no group differences on anxiety or depressive symptoms over time. Post hoc analyses using latent growth mixture modeling showed a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms in a subgroup of patients with severe initial symptoms (n=20) (P<.001).

Our results do not support the efficacy of the Trauma TIPS Internet-based early intervention in the prevention of PTSD symptoms for an unselected population of injury patients. Moreover, uptake was relatively low since one-fifth of individuals did not log in to the intervention. Future research should therefore focus on innovative strategies to increase intervention usage, for example, adding gameplay, embedding it in a blended care context, and targeting high-risk individuals who are more likely to benefit from the intervention.

Mouthaan, J., Sijbrandij, M., De Vries, G. J., Reitsma, J. B., Van de Schoot, R., Goslings, J. C., Luitse, J. S. K., Bakker, F. C., Gersons, B. P. R., & Olff, M. (2013). Internet-Based Early Intervention to Prevent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Injury Patients: Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(8): e165.

Trial Registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 57754429.

Marit Sijbrandij
Associate Professor VU University
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Miranda Olff
Professor Neurobiological Mechanisms of Treatment in Trauma
Miranda focuses on the psychological and biological responses to traumatic stress. Research includes randomized controlled trials on the effects of debriefing of early trauma interventions, and psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.
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