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On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, and a massive tsunami struck off the coast of the Sanriku region. A Disaster Medical Assistance Team, a mobile medical team with specialized training that is deployed during the acute phase of a disaster, was dispatched to areas with large-scale destruction and multiple injured and sick casualties. Previous studies have reported critical incident stress (i.e. posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and depressive symptoms) among rescue workers as well as the need for screening and prevention for posttraumatic stress disorder. So far we have shown in an open trial that posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in critically injured patients can be reduced by taking omega-3 fatty acids intended to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis.
This study is designed to determine the effectiveness of attenuating posttraumatic distress with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids among Disaster Medical Assistance Team members after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and is named the APOP randomized controlled trial which is currently ongoing. First, we will provide psycho-education on posttraumatic distress, which is common in responders to the Disaster Medical Assistance Team members deployed to the disaster area. Second, observational research will be conducted to evaluate critical incident stress following the completion of medical activities. Third, team members who provide consent to participate in the intervention research will be randomly divided into a group given an omega-3 fatty acid supplement and a group not given the supplements. Outcome will be evaluated at 12 weeks after the supplements are shipped to the team members.
Measures that address critical incident stress in disaster responders are important, but there is no substantial evidence that links such measures with prevention of posttraumatic stress disorder. Thus, any confirmation through this study that the intake of omega-3 fatty acid supplements serves as a simple preventative measure for critical incident stress will be of great significance.
UMIN Clinical Trials Registry, UMIN000005367