Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children Workup

Updated: Dec 02, 2021
  • Author: Roy H Lubit, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Approach Considerations

There are no specific laboratory studies that establish the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has demonstrated exaggerated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and increased overall adrenergic activity in acute PTSD; however, this observation is not used for diagnostic purposes clinical settings.

In addition, there are no specific imaging studies that establish the diagnosis of PTSD; however, in the case of physical abuse or torture, the corresponding physical signs, such as old fractures, may be discovered. (See Physical Child Abuse and Child Sexual Abuse.)

Numerous psychological tests may be helpful in PTSD; some are directly designed to evaluate for PTSD symptoms, and others are designed to examine symptoms of related disorders.


Psychological Tests

Several psychometric measures, such as semistructured interviews or self-report measures, are used to evaluate PTSD in children. These psychometric measures include the following:

  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment: Life Events Section and PTSD Module (CAPA-PTSD)

  • Children’s PTSD Inventory (CPTSDI)

  • Child PTSD Symptom Scale (CPSS) [25]

  • Abbreviated UCLA PTSD Reaction Index

  • Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC)

  • Impact of Events Scale

  • Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED)

The following tests may also be helpful:

  • Beck Depression Inventory

  • Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD

Both children and adults with PTSD symptoms who do not meet the specific criteria for PTSD diagnosis still suffer impairment, and it may not be significantly less than someone who fulfills all of the criteria.