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Depression, Disability Can Follow ICU Care: Study

FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Depression and new physical problems are common among patients released from the intensive care unit after treatment for a potentially deadly condition called acute lung injury, a new study finds.

The findings may also apply to ICU patients with other types of disease or injury who get hooked up to breathing machines, according to the researchers.

"When people are discharged from the ICU, we tend, understandably, to focus on their physical health, but our data tell us we need to focus on their mental health, too," study leader Dr. O. Joseph Bienvenu, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

"Depression can make recovery much more difficult. Identifying depressive symptoms early -- and treating them -- could make a real difference in how patients fare physically in the long term," he added.

The researchers looked at the depression levels and physical abilities of 186 survivors of acute lung injury three, six, 12 and 24 months after they became ill. Physical abilities included whether people could perform basic tasks of daily living such as shopping, preparing food and using the telephone.

Forty percent of the patients developed depressive symptoms during the two years of follow-up, even though they had not previously experienced such symptoms.

In addition, 66 percent of the patients developed new physical impairments during the follow-up period.

The average age of the patients in the study was 49, and they should be in the prime of their lives, the researchers noted. Instead, many had become disabled and unable to return to work.

The researchers will continue to follow these patients to find out if the depression symptoms and physical impairments persist beyond the initial follow-up of two years.

The study was published Dec. 9 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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The Society of Critical Care Medicine has more about ICU care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Dec. 7, 2011

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