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Long Waits in the ER May Raise PTSD Risk for Heart Patients
Date:2/12/2013

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- People waiting for countless hours in crowded emergency rooms to be treated for a heart attack or severe chest pain may be at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study suggests.

Typically, PTSD is associated with major traumatic experiences such as war or disasters, but it can also occur in highly stressful situations such as sitting in an emergency room for more than 11 hours, the Columbia University researchers said.

"The modern emergency department is excellent at acute care, but a number of health system and hospital-level pressures have overcrowded them to a point where being treated there can, at times, worsen long-term prognosis," said study author Donald Edmondson, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine.

Although it was small, this is the first study to document the psychological effects of overcrowding in the emergency room environment, he added.

"Most experts forecast that emergency department crowding will increase as health reform is implemented, because a lot of U.S. emergency departments have closed recently, and many newly insured patients will enter the system without access to good primary care, ending up in the emergency department," Edmondson explained.

For the more than 1 million Americans who have a heart attack or chest pain this year, "those overcrowded emergency departments will increase the stress of an already traumatic event, and may lead to increased PTSD symptoms and poor prognosis," he added.

The report was published in the Feb. 11 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

To see what effects waiting in crowded emergency rooms might have, Edmondson's team noted the time when 135 heart patients arrived at a New York City emergency room between 2009 and 2011. The patients were part of a larger study.

Those who stayed in the emergency room
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