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Delusions Common in Pediatric ICU
Date:5/1/2008

gest that additional studies be done in children to see if periods of interrupted sedation might lower rates of delirium.

The current study included 102 children between the ages of 7 and 17 who were asked about their experience in the PICU three months after they had been discharged.

Sixty-three percent of the children reported at least one factual memory of their hospital stay, such as seeing their parent at their bedside when they woke, or seeing the video monitors in the PICU.

Thirty-two percent of the youngsters reported having delusional memories. If they were sedated for more than two days, the odds of having a delusional memory increased nearly fivefold, according to the study.

Twenty-seven children had scores high enough to be considered as having "probable" post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the risk of PTSD was significantly higher for children who reported having delusional memories.

"Some of the symptoms that define PTSD involve the person reexamining what happened in the form of intrusive memories, sometimes known as flashbacks," explained Colville. "These memories are likely to be of the particularly distressing parts of what happened and are associated with strong emotions of fear and threat. On the whole, the children interviewed were much more distressed by their delusional memories than by the factual memories they experienced."

Colville recommended that parents and caregivers be clear and honest with children, in an age-appropriate manner, about what's going on both during their hospital stay and after. She said it's reassuring for children to know that other children have experienced the same types of hallucinations. "Sometimes, [children] have thought they were going mad," she said.

Watson agreed, adding "Children are likely to have confused and potentially disturbing memories of an ICU stay. Despite this, most children appear to recover well and don't suffer
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