Intensive care has a lasting psychological impact, study suggests
A small British study has shown that some 55% of intensive care patients develop post-treatment psychological disorders, highlighting a lack of support during the recovery period.
A study of 157 patients at University College Hospital, London, found high levels of psychological disorders present in patients three months after admission into intensive care.
The study found that 55% of the 157 patients had some form of psychological problem. 27% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 46% from depression and 44% from anxiety.
Dr David Howell, the clinical director of critical care at the hospital, said: "It is fair to say there hasn't been enough focus on the psychological aspects of recovery in intensive care and afterwards."
The Critical Care journal has cited certain types of drugs, combined with the stress of being in hospital, as factors in developing disorders.
The risk of developing a psychological disorder increases depending on how long patients are sedated. Some drugs, such as those used for controlling blood pressure, can also exacerbate a developing mental health issue.
Patients with sleep deprivation, hallucinations and nightmares were also at risk.
Doctors have consequently expressed a desire to trial altered drugs and less stressful environments in intensive care.
Bob Winter, president of the Intensive Care Society, said: "This is clearly an important study confirming in some cases what we have known in intensive care for some time. What is interesting about this study is the fact that some of the associations seem to be modifiable.”
Dr Dorothy Wade, a psychologist from University College London, agreed with Winter's suggestion. "As well as looking at modifying our drug treatments, we may need to invest more time in the psychological care of a patient,” she added.
Dr Wade nonetheless concedes that "the focus of intensive care is to save lives, and to do whatever it takes".