Background: Following traumatic exposure, a proportion of trauma victims develops posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Early PTSD risk screening requires sensitive instruments to identify everyone at risk for developing PTSD in need of diagnostic follow-up. Aims: This study compares the accuracy of the 4-item SPAN, 10-item Trauma Screening Questionnaire (TSQ) and 22-item Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) in predicting chronic PTSD at a minimum sensitivity of 80%. Method: Injury patients admitted to a level-I trauma centre (N = 311) completed the instruments at a median of 23 days and were clinically assessed for PTSD at 6 months. Areas under the curve and specificities at 80% sensitivity were compared between instruments. Results: Areas under the curve in all instruments were adequate (SPAN: 0.83; TSQ: 0.82; IES-R: 0.83) with no significant differences. At 80% sensitivity, specificities were 64% for SPAN, 59% for TSQ and 72% for IES-R. Conclusion: The SPAN, TSQ and IES-R show similar accuracy in early detection of individuals at risk for PTSD, despite differences in number of items. The modest specificities and low positive predictive values found for all instruments could lead to relatively many false positive cases, when applied in clinical practice. © 2014 Mouthaan et al.