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Half of ICU patients face psychological disorders after discharge: UK study

Patients discharged from the ICU frequently report symptoms of anxiety, PTSD or depression – and it could have major implications for risk of death.

The authors of the study, from the University of Oxford, asked a total of 4,943 ICU patients in the UK to complete a questionnaire on their symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD three months after discharge and again 12 months after they left hospital.

They found that 46 per cent of patients reported symptoms of anxiety, 40 per cent told of symptoms of depression and 22 per cent reported symptoms of PTSD, while 18 per cent reported symptoms of all three conditions.

Researcher Dr Peter Watkinson said not only are psychological problems after being treated for a critical illness in the ICU very common, they are often complex when they occur. “When symptoms of one psychological disorder are present, there is a 65 per cent chance they will co-occur with symptoms of another psychological disorder.”

Patients who reported symptoms of depression were 47 per cent more likely to die from any cause during the first two years after discharge from the ICU than those who did not report symptoms for the condition.

"When other known associations are adjusted for (age, male sex, illness severity), patients with depressive symptoms are nearly 50 per cent more likely to die during the first 24 months after leaving ICU than those without depression caseness," the authors wrote.

Although symptoms of depression are associated with increased mortality in other populations, the study read, it is with less magnitude than the increased risk seen post-ICU discharge.

Watkinson said the findings show that depression following care of a critical illness in the ICU may be a marker of declining health and added clinicians should consider this when following up with former ICU patients.

The authors warned, however, that the observational nature of the study, which was published in open access journal Critical Care, and its reliance of self-reported data mean that it does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect between ICU care and symptoms of psychological disorders.

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