Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Diary Project


Psychological morbidity in both patients and family members related to the intensive care unit (ICU) experience is an often overlooked, and potentially persistent, healthcare problem recognized by the Society of Critical Care Medicine as Post-intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). ICU diaries are an intervention increasingly under study with potential to mitigate ICU-related psychological morbidity, include ICU-related PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression and anxiety.

Full Title of Study: “Implementing an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Diary Program at a Large Academic Medical Center: Results From a Randomized Control Trial Evaluating Psychological Morbidity Associated With Critical Illness”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Prevention
    • Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: September 25, 2018

Detailed Description

The investigators compared the efficacy of the ICU diary, prospectively written by third-parties during the patient's intensive care course, versus education-alone, on reducing acute PTSD symptoms after discharge. Patients with an ICU stay greater than 72 hours, and who were intubated and mechanically ventilated over 24 hours, were recruited and randomized to either receive a diary at bedside with psychoeducation, or psychoeducation alone. Intervention patients received their ICU diary within the first week of admission into the intensive care unit. Psychometric testing with IES-R, PHQ-8, HADS and GAD-7 was conducted at weeks 4, 12, and 24 after ICU discharge.


  • Other: Diary (blank journal) plus PTSD psycho-education
    • A blank journal where a prospective account of a patient’s ICU course (everyday events) can be documented by family members and healthcare providers
  • Other: PTSD psycho-education alone
    • We administered a pamphlet to patients with information regarding PTSD symptoms, potential psychiatric complications after discharge, and available mental health resources. References for our education include the following which are included in our references section: Jensen 2015, Jones 2010, Knowles 2009, Parker 2015, Wintermann 2015.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: ICU Diary Group
    • Patients randomized to this group receive the ICU diary, along with PTSD education
  • Other: PTSD Education-only Group
    • Control Group: patients randomized to this group only receive PTSD education

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Change in PTSD symptoms
    • Time Frame: at baseline (within one week of ICU admission) versus twelve-weeks post-ICU discharge
    • Revised Impact of Event Scales (IES-R) score, measuring areas of hyperarousal, avoidance, and intrusion as subscales. Total score ranges from 0-88, higher score associated with worse PTSD symptoms. Scores from 1-22 are consistent with mild PTSD, and scores greater than 22 signal clinically significant PTSD symptoms.

Secondary Measures

  • Change in Hospital-associated Depression and Anxiety symptoms
    • Time Frame: at baseline (within one week of ICU admission) versus twelve-weeks post-ICU discharge
    • Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), range of 0-21 for either anxiety or depression subscores, with higher scores corresponding to worse outcomes. Scores of 0-7 are normal, 8-10 are borderline abnormal (mild depression or anxiety), and 11-21 correspond to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • Change in Depression symptoms
    • Time Frame: at baseline (within one week of ICU admission) versus twelve-weeks post-ICU discharge
    • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), score ranges 0-24, as higher scores correspond to worse depression symptoms. Scores of 5-10 represent mild symptoms of depression, 10-15 signal moderate symptoms, and 15-24 correspond to severe symptoms.
  • Change in Anxiety symptoms
    • Time Frame: at baseline (within one week of ICU admission) versus twelve-weeks post-ICU discharge
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scores (GAD-7) range from 0 to 21, with higher scores corresponding to worse anxiety symptoms. Scores of 0-4 indicate minimal anxiety, 5-9 correspond to mild anxiety, 10-14 signal moderate anxiety, and 15-21 represent severe anxiety.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • admitted to the intensive care unit for at least 72 hours
  • sedated and mechanically ventilated for at least 24 hours.
  • available over-the-phone, up to 6 months post-ICU discharge

Exclusion Criteria

  • any patients who do not voluntarily agree to participate
  • not fluent in the English language
  • patients who have stayed in the ICU for less than 72 hours
  • patients who have been sedated and mechanically ventilated for less than 24 hours
  • patients with pre-existing severe psychotic illness, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, PTSD, stroke, traumatic brain injury, neurocognitive impairment, or intellectual disability
  • patients with no phone number or reliable contact information for the sake of follow-up
  • prisoners
  • pregnant patients

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 65 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Tulane University School of Medicine
  • Collaborator
    • The Arnold P. Gold Foundation
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Rachel Hammer, MD, MFA, Principal Investigator, Tulane University School of Medicine
    • George Sayde, MD, Principal Investigator, Tulane University School of Medicine


Parker AM, Sricharoenchai T, Raparla S, Schneck KW, Bienvenu OJ, Needham DM. Posttraumatic stress disorder in critical illness survivors: a metaanalysis. Crit Care Med. 2015 May;43(5):1121-9. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000000882. Review.

Wintermann GB, Brunkhorst FM, Petrowski K, Strauss B, Oehmichen F, Pohl M, Rosendahl J. Stress disorders following prolonged critical illness in survivors of severe sepsis. Crit Care Med. 2015 Jun;43(6):1213-22. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000000936.

Jones C, Bäckman C, Capuzzo M, Egerod I, Flaatten H, Granja C, Rylander C, Griffiths RD; RACHEL group. Intensive care diaries reduce new onset post traumatic stress disorder following critical illness: a randomised, controlled trial. Crit Care. 2010;14(5):R168. doi: 10.1186/cc9260. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

Myhren H, Ekeberg O, Tøien K, Karlsson S, Stokland O. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression symptoms in patients during the first year post intensive care unit discharge. Crit Care. 2010;14(1):R14. doi: 10.1186/cc8870. Epub 2010 Feb 8.

Jensen JF, Thomsen T, Overgaard D, Bestle MH, Christensen D, Egerod I. Erratum to: Impact of follow-up consultations for ICU survivors on post-ICU syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Intensive Care Med. 2015 Jul;41(7):1391. doi: 10.1007/s00134-015-3932-9.

Davydow DS, Kohen R, Hough CL, Tracy JH, Zatzick D, Katon WJ. A pilot investigation of the association of genetic polymorphisms regulating corticotrophin-releasing hormone with posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms in medical-surgical intensive care unit survivors. J Crit Care. 2014 Feb;29(1):101-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2013.08.016. Epub 2013 Sep 24.

Jones C, Bäckman C, Griffiths RD. Intensive care diaries and relatives' symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after critical illness: a pilot study. Am J Crit Care. 2012 May;21(3):172-6. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2012569.

Knowles RE, Tarrier N. Evaluation of the effect of prospective patient diaries on emotional well-being in intensive care unit survivors: a randomized controlled trial. Crit Care Med. 2009 Jan;37(1):184-91. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31819287f7.

Jones C, Griffiths RD, Humphris G, Skirrow PM. Memory, delusions, and the development of acute posttraumatic stress disorder-related symptoms after intensive care. Crit Care Med. 2001 Mar;29(3):573-80.

Karnatovskaia LV, Johnson MM, Benzo RP, Gajic O. The spectrum of psychocognitive morbidity in the critically ill: a review of the literature and call for improvement. J Crit Care. 2015 Feb;30(1):130-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2014.09.024. Epub 2014 Oct 2. Review.

Bergbom I, Svensson C, Berggren E, Kamsula M. Patients' and relatives' opinions and feelings about diaries kept by nurses in an intensive care unit: pilot study. Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 1999 Aug;15(4):185-91.

Ullman AJ, Aitken LM, Rattray J, Kenardy J, Le Brocque R, MacGillivray S, Hull AM. Diaries for recovery from critical illness. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Dec 9;(12):CD010468. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010468.pub2. Review.

Garrouste-Orgeas M, Flahault C, Vinatier I, Rigaud JP, Thieulot-Rolin N, Mercier E, Rouget A, Grand H, Lesieur O, Tamion F, Hamidfar R, Renault A, Parmentier-Decrucq E, Monseau Y, Argaud L, Bretonnière C, Lautrette A, Badié J, Boulet E, Floccard B, Forceville X, Kipnis E, Soufir L, Valade S, Bige N, Gaffinel A, Hamzaoui O, Simon G, Thirion M, Bouadma L, Large A, Mira JP, Amdjar-Badidi N, Jourdain M, Jost PH, Maxime V, Santoli F, Ruckly S, Vioulac C, Leborgne MA, Bellalou L, Fasse L, Misset B, Bailly S, Timsit JF. Effect of an ICU Diary on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Patients Receiving Mechanical Ventilation: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019 Jul 16;322(3):229-239. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.9058.

Clinical trials entries are delivered from the US National Institutes of Health and are not reviewed separately by this site. Please see the identifier information above for retrieving further details from the government database.

At, we keep tabs on over 200,000 clinical trials in the US and abroad, using medical data supplied directly by the US National Institutes of Health. Please see the About and Contact page for details.