Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Screening Status is Associated with Increased VA Medical and Surgical Utilization in Women

Despite reports of poor health among women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), information about this population's health care utilization rates is not well understood. This study used a mail survey to assess the relationship between utilization of medical and surgical services and PTSD in female Veterans Affairs (VA) patients. The study sample included 2,578 female respondents who had received care at an urban VA medical center between October 1996 and January 2000. Researchers used the PTSD Checklist-Civilian version (PCL-C) to assess PTSD status and the VA National Patient Care Database (NPCD) to determine inpatient and outpatient health service utilization rates.

Key Findings:

  • Thirty-three percent of the study sample screened positive for PTSD.
  • Women who screened positive for PTSD had higher rates of hospitalizations and surgical inpatient procedures, and higher annual outpatient visits including: emergency department, primary care, medical/surgical subspecialists, ancillary services and diagnostic tests.
  • After adjusting for demographic factors, smoking, access to services and other pre-existing medical conditions, women who screened positive for PTSD were still more likely to have been hospitalized and to have high usage rates for the emergency department, primary care, ancillary services and diagnostic testing.