Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Life threat during assaultive trauma: Critical posttraumatic stress disorder risk factors for injured patients. J Trauma Acute Care Surg 2022 May 01;92(5):848-854



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID



BACKGROUND: Rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among injury survivors are higher relative to the general population, supporting the need to identify those most at risk for PTSD following injury given negative impact of PTSD on recovery. Perceived life threat and assaultive trauma are consistent risk factors for subsequent PTSD development, although less work has explored them in combination. The current study evaluated whether trauma type (assaultive vs. nonassaultive) and perceived life threat, together, led to greater PTSD symptoms 1 month and 6 months postinjury.

METHODS: Participants included adult injured trauma survivors admitted to a level 1 trauma center. While hospitalized, perceived life threat during trauma was assessed and mechanism of injury was collected via record review and was collapsed into two categories: assaultive and nonassaultive. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [Fifth Edition]) was administered at 1 month (N = 137) and 6 months (N = 220) after injury.

RESULTS: The four symptoms clusters of PTSD (intrusions, avoidance, hyperarousal, and negative mood/cognitions) were examined using four 2 (time) × 2 (life threat) × 2 (trauma type) mixed methods analyses of variance to assess differences based on risk factors and time. Results showed significant interaction effects of life threat, trauma type, and time for intrusive symptoms and avoidance symptoms. Individuals with life threat during assaultive traumas maintained heightened intrusive symptoms across time and increased avoidance at 6 months. On the other hand, participants with either life threat or assaultive traumas had decreased symptoms at 6 months.

CONCLUSION: Experiencing assaultive trauma and life threat led to greater symptoms of PTSD. Individuals with assaultive traumas who experienced life threat may represent a specific at-risk group following injury. Avoidance can protract functional impairment and impede access to care, negatively impacting recovery. This study highlights a need to assess for these peritrauma factors during hospitalization and supports early intervention targeting avoidance and intrusive symptoms in this group.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic/Epidemiologic, Level IV.

Author List

Timmer-Murillo SC, Schramm A, deRoon-Cassini TA


Andrew T. Schramm PhD Assistant Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Terri A. deRoon Cassini PhD Center Director, Professor in the Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Risk Factors
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Trauma Centers