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Examining the Effectiveness of an Early Psychological Intervention to Prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This study has been completed.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, Emory University Identifier:
First received: May 7, 2009
Last updated: September 7, 2016
Last verified: September 2016
This study will examine the use of prolonged exposure therapy on people who have recently experienced a trauma to prevent them from developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Condition Intervention Phase
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Behavioral: Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy
Phase 1

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Prevention
Official Title: Effects of Early Psychological Intervention to Prevent PTSD

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by Emory University:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • PTSD Symptom Scale- I (PSS) [ Time Frame: Measured 4 and 12 weeks post-trauma ]

Enrollment: 139
Study Start Date: April 2008
Study Completion Date: January 2012
Primary Completion Date: January 2012 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
No Intervention: 1
Participants will receive assessments only.
Experimental: 2
Participants will receive prolonged exposure therapy.
Behavioral: Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy
Three PE sessions lasting 1 hour each, delivered 1 week apart

Detailed Description:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that forms in response to a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD, such as hyper-arousal and re-experiencing the traumatic event, are common in all people who have recently experienced a trauma, but those who develop PTSD continue to have these symptoms more than a month after the trauma. Some researchers believe that developing PTSD is the result of a failure to adequately recover from the trauma. This study will determine whether providing a common form of treatment for PTSD, prolonged exposure (PE) therapy, to people who have recently experienced trauma will prevent them from developing PTSD. The study will also seek to identify predictive markers, such as hormone levels and genes, for developing PTSD.

Participation in this study will last 3 months. Participants will first undergo an evaluation session that will include an interview, questionnaires, and a medical chart review for blood pressure and heart rate measurements taken after their trauma. They will then be randomly assigned to receive either PE therapy or assessments only. Participants receiving PE therapy will complete three weekly treatment sessions, with the first occurring immediately after the evaluation session. Treatment will involve reviewing memories of a recent trauma out loud with a therapist and audio-recording these discussions for review at home. All participants will undergo assessments 1 and 3 months after the initial evaluation session. The 1-month assessment will involve an interview and questionnaires similar to the evaluation session, and the 3-month session will involve only a brief phone interview. Some participants will also be asked to complete an optional part of the study in which they provide two saliva samples to researchers: one to measure stress hormones and one to test for genetic bases of trauma response.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 65 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Presenting to the emergency department of Emory University School of Medicine/Grady Memorial Hospital for rape in the past 72 hours
  • Meets DSM-IV diagnostic criterion A in which both of the following are present: (i) The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (ii) The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror
  • Speaks and understands spoken English
  • Can see the assessment forms, hear instructions, and function at an emotional and intellectual level sufficient to allow accurate completion of all assessment instruments
  • No significant traumatic injuries, as determined by the physician

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Current or history of mania, schizophrenia, or other psychoses
  • Current (past month) prominent suicidal ideation or recent (past 3 months) parasuicidal behavior or other self-injurious behavior, such as low lethality cutting
  • Current (past month) substance dependence; people who meet criteria for current substance abuse but not dependence, or past dependence and have been in remission for at least 1 month are eligible.
  • Experienced a loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes as a result of injuries sustained during the trauma
  • Intoxicated, altered, or highly distressed to the degree that accurate completion of the study assessments or participation in study procedures is not possible
  • Blood alcohol level above .08, determined by breathalyzer in the emergency department
  • Not alert, oriented, and coherent
  • In severe pain, active labor, or respiratory distress or hemodynamically compromised in any way
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00895518

United States, Georgia
Grady Memorial Hospital, Emergency Department
Atlanta, Georgia, United States, 30303
Sponsors and Collaborators
Emory University
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Principal Investigator: Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD Emory University
  More Information

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: Barbara O. Rothbaum, PhD, Professor in Psychiatry and Associate Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Emory University Identifier: NCT00895518     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: IRB00009260
DATR AD-TS ( Other Identifier: Other )
R34MH083078 ( US NIH Grant/Contract Award Number )
Study First Received: May 7, 2009
Last Updated: September 7, 2016

Keywords provided by Emory University:

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Stress Disorders, Traumatic
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders
Mental Disorders processed this record on April 24, 2017