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Brain damage caused by extended ICU stays

Patients in Illinois might be alarmed to hear that research conducted by Vanderbilt has revealed that brain damage could be caused by extensive ICU stays. According to the research, mental loss can persist for as long as a year after a stay in the ICU unit. Therefore, Vanderbilt researchers have cautioned medical practitioners about using drug-induced comas for critically ill patients.

The results of the study were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It showed that a third of ICU patients suffer from mental deficits that are similar to those of traumatic brain injury. The study also showed that nearly one-fourth of them exhibited impairments that were similar to those of a mild stage of Alzheimer's disease.

Therefore, Vanderbilt researchers stated that hospitals need to do better jobs at keeping patients in ICU alert and that they should get them out of bed as often as possible. They also stated that hospitals should recognize that drug-induced comas can sometimes do more harm than good. The study further revealed that the longer a patient suffered from delirium in ICU, the greater that patient's chance was of developing dementia after being released from the hospital. Researchers said that although making patients comfortable and reducing their pain should be a priority, so should not inducing a deeper degree of sedation once the pain is thought to be under control. Incapacitating patients can actually give them long-term cognitive impairment and increase post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medical malpractice attorneys might be able to assist people whose conditions have worsened after stays in ICU. They might be able to help them seek compensation for their worsened conditions. Attorneys could be able to help plaintiffs negotiate better settlements with defendants' insurance companies as well.

Source: USA TODAY, "Extended ICU stays cause brain damage", Tom Wilemon, October 02, 2013

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