Mechanical ventilation may prompt severe hallucinatory or delirious symptoms for patients in the ICU, who even as long as two years later might experience symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
That's the finding from Johns Hopkins University researchers, who followed 186 patients hospitalized with acute respiratory illness. The researchers found that 66 of them, or more than one-third, experienced episodes of mentally traumatic delirium, and two thirds of those still reported frightening sensations or visions 24 months later.
"One woman I remember in the study reported that she was pretty distressed… she thought her husband and her nurse were talking about her and plotting to kill her, but if she had the right lucky number she might be spared," says O. Joseph Bienvenu, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the study's principal investigator.
"Or maybe they believe someone is trying to poison them, when of course they are not."
Bienvenu's study, with colleagues at Johns Hopkins, was published online in the journal Psychological Medicine. Patients were recruited from 13 intensive care units within four Baltimore-area hospitals between October, 2004 and October, 2007. Patients with neurologic disease or head trauma were excluded, as were patients with less than six months to live.