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One in Three Former ICU Patients Shows Symptoms of Depression

A meta-analysis of reports on more than 4,000 patients suggests that almost one in three people discharged from hospital intensive care units (ICUs) has clinically important and persistent symptoms of depression, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM). In some patients, the symptoms can last for a year or more, and they are notably more likely in people with a history of psychological distress before an ICU stay, the investigators said.

The prevalence of depressive symptoms in this population, described in the September issue of the journal Critical Care Medicine, is three to four times that of the general population, said study co-author O. Joseph Bienvenu, MD, PhD.

“Not only can people with depression have slower physical recovery, but they also experience financial strain because they often cannot return to work and their caregivers must stay home with them,” Bienvenu said.

Psychological symptoms occurring before an ICU stay and psychological distress experienced during the ICU stay or hospitalization were risk factors most associated with depressive symptoms after hospital discharge, the review found.

“It’s very clear that ICU survivors have physical, cognitive, and psychological problems that greatly impair their reintegration into society, return to work, and being able to take on previous roles in life,” said senior study author Dale Needham, MD. He further stresses that former ICU patients’ expressions of feeling sad or that the ICU was stressful should be taken seriously by healthcare providers, family members, and caregivers.

This article was adapted from information provided by JHM.