Background: The goals were to determine the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children after paediatric intensive care treatment, to identify risk factors for PTSD, and to compare this data with data from a major fire disaster in the Netherlands. Methods: Children completed the Dutch Children's Responses to Trauma Inventory at three and nine months after discharge from the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Comparison data were available from 355 children survivors who completed the same questionnaire 10 months after a major fire disaster. Results: Thirty-six children aged eight to 17 years completed questionnaires at three month follow-up, nine month follow-up, or both. More than one third (34.5%) of the children had subclinical PTSD, while 13.8% were likely to meet criteria for PTSD. Maternal PTSD was the strongest predictor for child PTSD. There were no significant differences in (subclinical) PTSD symptoms either over time or compared to symptoms of survivors from the fire disaster. Conclusion: This study shows that a considerable number of children have persistent PTSD after PICU treatment. Prevention of PTSD is important to minimize the profound adverse effects that PTSD can have on children's well-being and future development. © 2008 Bronner et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.