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Stress Disorder May Be Common Among ICU Patients on Ventilators
Date:3/1/2013

FRIDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- Post-traumatic stress disorder, a form of anxiety disorder common among war veterans, was also frequently seen among intensive care patients put on a ventilator, a new study shows.

Some patients showed significant effects of the condition, also known as PTSD, up to two years later, the researchers found.

"We usually think of PTSD as something you develop if you go to war, are sexually assaulted or suffer a similar emotional trauma," senior study author, Dr. Dale Needham, a critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release. "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."

The researchers followed 520 ICU patients put on ventilators because of acute lung injury, which involves fluid in the lungs and multi-organ failure. The patients were treated at 13 different Baltimore ICUs over the course of three years.

The researchers had at least one visit with 186 of the ICU survivors during a two-year follow up period. The study revealed that 35 percent of these patients had significant symptoms of PTSD. Onset of these symptoms was greatest during the first three months after their hospital stay.

"Physical weakness usually gets better, but these mental symptoms often just linger," Dr. O. Joseph Bienvenu, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, said in the news release. "We need to pay more attention to preventing and treating PTSD in these patients."

Former ICU patients with PTSD often have flashback and delusions about what happened while they were in the hospital, the researchers found. When medicated with sedatives and other narcotics, these patients may have memories of events that never actually happened.

"One woman thought her husband and the nurse were plot
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