Diagnosis of Depression in Adolescents Following Traumatic Fracture: A Retrospective Analysis

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Objective: To assess how frequently adolescents are clinically diagnosed with depression following hospitalization for traumatic fracture, with the assumption that a retrospective approach would yield lower rates of depression compared to those reported previously in prospective studies. We hypothesized that depression would be less common among adolescents whose injuries were primarily limited to fractures of the appendicular skeleton, vertebral column, and/or thoracic cage compared to those sustaining concomitant spinal cord and/or brain injuries and those suffering from facial/skull fractures.

Method: A patient population of 1,121 adolescents, aged 12 to 19 years, who were hospitalized overnight at the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, Charlottesville, for fractures between 2000 and 2009, was generated using the health system’s Clinical Data Repository. The number of these adolescents who received a new diagnosis of depression (per ICD-9 codes) at the UVA Health System within the first year following their injury was determined.

Results: By the end of the first year, 37 of 913 adolescents (4.1%) who had at least 1 follow-up visit after their fracture were diagnosed with depression. When patients with a concomitant spinal cord injury and those with a facial/skull fracture with or without an associated brain injury were excluded, this percentage dropped to 3.2% and 1.1%, respectively.

Conclusions: The results support our initial hypothesis that the percentage of adolescents diagnosed with depression following a traumatic fracture determined retrospectively would be lower than the percentages previously reported in related prospective studies. This finding adds to the growing concern that depression in youth is underdiagnosed, even among youth who have contact with health care providers. When compared to our own retrospectively determined data, the much higher rates of depression reported in several prospective studies indicate that more proactive, routine implementation of depression screening tools in the postinjury period is likely to improve identification of at-risk youth.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(5):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01309

Submitted: October 19, 2011; accepted April 12, 2012.

Published online: September 6, 2012.

Corresponding author: Alyson L. Kepple, MD, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O’Hara St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (alk7p@virginia.edu).

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(5):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01309