Post-traumatic growth in polytraumatized patients after 20+ years: a long-term follow-up study of 337 patients treated at a level 1 trauma center

Yannik Kalbas, Sascha Halvachizadeh, Yohei Kumabe, Anna Theresa Luidl, Jennifer Lynne Steel, Boris A. Zelle, Paolo Cinelli, Hans Christoph Pape, Roman Pfeifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: There is limited research on the long-term psychiatric outcomes of polytraumatized patients. Existing studies focus mainly on the negative sequelae. Post-traumatic growth (PTG) describes positive personal development after severe physical or mental distress. In this study, we investigated post-traumatic growth in polytraumatized patients at least 20 years after trauma. Methods: Patients treated for polytrauma at a German level 1 trauma center between 1971 and 1990, were contacted 20+ years later. A questionnaire with 37 questions from the stress-related growth scale (SRGS) and the post-traumatic growth inventory (PGI) was administered. PTG was quantified in five specific areas. PTG and patient demographics were then analyzed using logistic regression. Results: Eligible questionnaires were returned by 337 patients. 96.5% of patients reported improvements regarding at least one of the 37 questions. Approximately, a third of patients noticed distinct improvements regarding their relationship to others (29.2%), appreciation of life (36.2%) and attitudes towards new possibilities (32.5%). Patient demographics were significant predictors for the development of PTG: Older (p < 0.001), female (p = 0.042) and married patients (p = 0.047) showed a greater expression of PTG. We also saw significantly more PTG in patients with higher injury severity (p = 0.033). Conclusion: 20 years after polytrauma, patients report improvements in their relationship with others, appreciation of life and attitude towards new possibilities. Women and married patients show higher expression of PTG. Furthermore, there is higher expression of PTG with higher age and injury severity. Post-traumatic growth should be identified and fostered in clinical practice. Level of evidence: III—prospective long-term follow-up study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1279-1286
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Coping
  • Long-term follow-up
  • Outcome
  • Polytrauma
  • Post-traumatic growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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