The first post in this series explored how invasive medical procedures can cause PTSD in children. The post listed four factors that increase the likelihood of PTSD developing. The factors are:

  • Timing
  • Anesthesia
  • Age of patient
  • Previous Trauma History

As promised in Part 1 of the series, this post will address the general principle behind the occurrence of PTSD and how it can be successfully treated.

General PTSD Principle

Linda Gantt, who spoke at the 2010 Linking PTSD and Medical Trauma national conference, said the risks of developing PTSD increase according to this general principle: The more unexpected the procedure, the younger the patient, the more numerous the previous traumas, and the more urgent the need for the procedure, the greater the possibility that there will be psychological effects.

No Wonder Our Son Had PTSD

When  Dr. Gantt’s explained the four factors and the general principle behind them, the burden of guilt I carried about our son’s PTSD no longer weighed upon me. Our son’s medical treatment was completely unexpected, within 24 hours of his birth, and immediately necessary for him to live. With three of the four factors involved in his trauma, no wonder he developed PTSD. And since medically induced PTSD wasn’t even on the radar screen when he had surgery in 1982, no wonder it went undetected for so long.Prevent

How to Prevent PTSD

In 2010, the vast majority of kids can avoid developing medically induced PTSD. Depending on the age of the child and the circumnstances, it can be prevented by:

  • having the hospital’s child life specialist help prepare your verbal child for scheduled medical procedures or surgeries.
  • having the the child life specialist remediate trauma caused by an emergency medical procedure or surgery in a verbal child.
  • having someone rub a pre-verbal child’s arm and talk quietly to him during procedures or surgeries.
  • having soft music or a tape recording of the parent’s voice playing during procedures or surgeries.

How to Treat PTSD

Of course, not all PTSD can be prevented. But children can be successfully and easily treated for it. One great treatment resource is Peter Levine and Maggie Kline’s books, Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents’ Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience.

If your child needs professional therapy, I highly recommend the Intensive Trauma Therapy Institute in Morgantown, West Virginia. You can learn more about their clinic at their website If you know of other successful treatment centers, please leave a comment. I want every child with PTSD to receive treatment as quickly as possible!

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