A Look at Post-Intensive Care Syndrome

August 11, 2017 in LifeCare Health Services

Nearly 5.7 million adults receive care in intensive care units (ICUs) each year. These units and the doctors working in them provide amazing care to patients and do some miraculous service for people. Nevertheless, these units can be chaotic and the treatments received there can be traumatic for patients. It’s not uncommon for people to leave the ICU with psychological and physical symptoms related to their stay. In fact, it’s such an increasingly common phenomenon that doctors have given it a name, Post-Intensive Care Syndrome or PICS. It’s also becoming recognized as a public health burden because of the symptoms and complications it creates.

According to an article from the Journal of Translational Internal Medicine, Post-Intensive Care Syndrome is new or worsening decline in physical, cognitive, or mental health among critical care survivors that persists beyond discharge from the hospital setting. The study reports that, cognitive impairment occurs, on average, in 25 percent of ICU survivors, but other studies estimate that number to be much higher. Physical weakness related to ICU care also occurs in more than 25 percent of ICU survivors. There are risks of developing psychiatric illnesses, but there is a bit more division in studies about how common this is.

Common symptoms of PICS include weakness, decreased mobility, depressed or anxious mood, disturbed sleep, and cognitive issues. These can occur in both patients and their family members. One of the biggest factors for developing PICS is going on life support, particularly mechanical ventilators. Going under sedation for long periods of time is a major factor too. Also, the potential chaotic and intense atmosphere that can come with being in an intensive care unit is a risk factor.

There are steps that hospitals and doctors are taking to stop the development of PICS. One is trying to use as little sedation as possible. Others include spontaneous breathing trials, keeping careful track of patient delirium, and trying to get patients up and moving again as soon as possible. They are also working on better educating patients and family members about what can happen in an ICU and trying to maintain a positive channel of communication with them.

An increasing amount of counseling groups are opening worldwide. The Society of Critical Care Medicine has been funding an increasing number of groups. Doctors are also making more of an effort to monitor these symptoms in their clients after an ICU stay. The biggest issue right now is education about this, as many people do not realize that this is a condition that exists.

If you or someone you care for come home with weakness, confusion, and other challenges, remember home health. Traditional Medicare pays 100% for in-home nursing and physical therapy to finish the work of returning you to your maximum health.

Source: Rawal, G., Yadav, S. & Kumar, R. (2017). Post-intensive care syndrome: An overview. Journal of Translational Internal Medicine, 5(2), pp. 90-92. Retrieved 28 Jul. 2017, from doi:10.1515/jtim-2016-0016

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