[Skip to Navigation]
March 1992

Behavioral Changes in Pediatric Intensive Care Units

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics (Drs Jones and Fiser), Psychiatry (Drs Fiser and Livingston), and Anesthesiology (Dr Fiser), Arkansas Children's Hospital, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock.

Am J Dis Child. 1992;146(3):375-379. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1992.02160150115035

• Objective.  —The purposes of this study were to compare the frequency and severity of manifestations of anxiety, depression, delirium, and withdrawal in pediatric patients hospitalized in intensive care unit vs ward settings and to evaluate the impact of preexisting psychopathologic disorders on the expression of these symptoms.

Research Design.  —Prospective patient series.

Setting.  —Tertiary care pediatric center.

Patients.  —Forty-three subjects aged 6 to 17 years hospitalized in either the pediatric or cardiovascular intensive care unit (n = 18) or on the general wards (n = 25) were recruited to participate. Subjects were excluded if their parents were unavailable for diagnostic interview or if they could not answer interview questions themselves.

Selection Procedures.  —Consecutive sample.

Interventions.  —None.

Measurements and Results.  —The Hospital Observed Behavior Scale, developed for this study, was used to describe objectively subjects' manifestations of anxiety, depression, delirium, and withdrawal. The Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents and Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-Parents were used to determine the presence of preexisting psychopathologic disorders. As measured by the Hospital Observed Behavior Scale, subjects in the intensive care unit exhibited apprehension, anxiety, detachment, sadness, and weeping more often than did patients in the ward. Behavior was also significantly influenced by severity of illness, duration of hospitalization, number of previous hospitalizations, and presence of a preexisting anxiety or mood disorder. We found the Hospital Observed Behavior Scale to have good interrater reliability.

Conclusions.  —Our data indicate that critically ill children in the intensive care unit, children with prolonged or repeated hospitalizations, and children with preexisting anxiety and mood disorders are at greater risk than other hospitalized pediatric patients for psychological trauma and/or behavior problems that may warrant psychiatric intervention. The Hospital Observed Behavior Scale is a reliable tool to quantitate behaviors in hospitalized children.(AJDC. 1992;146:375-379)

Add or change institution