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PTSD symptoms common among ICU survivors
Date:2/25/2013

One in three people who survived stays in an intensive care unit (ICU) and required use of a mechanical ventilator showed substantial post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that lasted for up to two years, according to a new Johns Hopkins study of patients with acute lung injury.

Because acute lung injury (ALI) a syndrome marked by excessive fluid in the lungs and frequent multi-organ failure is considered an archetype for critical illness, the researchers suspect PTSD is common among other ICU survivors as well.

"We usually think of PTSD as something you develop if you go to war, are sexually assaulted or suffer a similar emotional trauma," says Dale Needham, M.D., Ph.D., a critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the study published online in Psychological Medicine. "Instead, it may be as common, or more common, in ICU patients as in soldiers, but it's something many doctors including psychiatrists don't fully appreciate."

"Physical weakness usually gets better, but these mental symptoms often just linger," says study leader O. Joseph Bienvenu, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins. "We need to pay more attention to preventing and treating PTSD in these patients."

Bienvenu says the unusual thing about PTSD in ICU survivors is that they often experience flashbacks about delusions or hallucinations they had in the hospital, rather than events that actually occurred. Having a life-threatening illness is itself frightening, but delirium in these patients who are attached to breathing machines and being given sedatives and narcotics may lead to "memories" of horrible things that didn't happen, he adds.

"One woman thought her husband and the nurse were plotting to kill her," Bienvenu recalls.

For the study, the Johns Hopkins team observed 520 mechanically ventilated patients with A
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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