BACKGROUND: Family members of patients treated with Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) during an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) stay are at risk of developing symptoms of anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Coping strategies used by family members may play an important role in the severity of some of these symptoms.
OBJECTIVES: The primary aim of this study was to describe coping strategies used by family members of ECMO-treated patients during ICU admission and recovery period. The secondary aim was to explore the course of the symptoms anxiety, depression, PTSD, and Health Related Quality Of Life (HRQOL) over time.
METHODS: In this single-center prospective longitudinal study, validated questionnaires were used to measure coping strategies, symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD, and HRQOL in family members of ECMO-treated patients directly after the start of ECMO and at one and six months after the start of ECMO.
RESULTS: Family members (n = 26) mainly used problem-focused coping strategies. Symptoms of anxiety appeared to be most present during treatment but decreased over time, as did symptoms of depression and PTSD. HRQOL was severely affected, especially in the mental domain, and did not improve over time.
CONCLUSION: In family members of ECMO-treated patients, problem-focused coping mechanisms were most prominent. Psychological functioning was impaired on admission but improved over time, although a mild reaction to stress remained.