Buy this Article for $10.95

Have a coupon or promotional code? Enter it here:

When you buy this you'll get access to the ePub version, a downloadable PDF, and the ability to print the full article.


congenital heart disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, uncertainty, young adults



  1. Moreland, Patricia PhD, RN, CPNP
  2. Santacroce, Sheila Judge PhD, RN, CPNP, FAANP


Background: Young adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at risk for chronic illness uncertainty in 4 domains: ambiguity about the state of their illness; lack of information about the disease, its treatment, and comorbidities; complexity of the healthcare system and relationship with healthcare providers; and unpredictability of the illness course and outcome. Chronic uncertainty has been associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Objective: The aims of this study were to explore how young adults with CHD experience uncertainty and to describe the relationship between PTSS and the appraisal and management process.


Methods: An exploratory, mixed methods design was used. Data were collected in person and via Skype from 25 participants (19-35 years old), who were diagnosed with CHD during childhood and able to read and write English. In-depth interviews and the University of California at Los Angeles Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index were used to collect data. Qualitative data were analyzed using the constant comparative method.


Results: The 4 domains of uncertainty were evident in the narratives. The PTSD mean (SD) score was 31.3 (7.7). Six participants met criteria for PTSD. Narrative analysis revealed a relationship between severity of PTSS and the appraisal and management of uncertainty. Participants with PTSD used management strategies that included avoidance, reexperiencing, and hyperarousal.


Conclusions: Young adults with CHD may be at risk for the development of long-term psychological stress and PTSD in the setting of chronic uncertainty. Regular monitoring to identify PTSS/PTSD may be a means to promote treatment adherence and participation in healthcare.