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ICU care linked to brain damage

Kentucky residents might be interested in hearing that Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered the longer patients stay in intensive care units, the more likely they are to develop long-term brain damage. Sometimes hospitals keep patients in drug-induced comas to ease their pain and make them comfortable. However, according to Vanderbilt's research, hospitals might need to strive to keep patients more mentally alert to prevent them from developing brain damage.

According to the study, mental loss can stay with patients for as long as a year after their stays in ICU units. Patients who were in critical conditions and given drugs to keep them in comas were also found to be more likely to develop symptoms similar to those associated with traumatic brain injuries or a mild case of Alzheimer's disease. Vanderbilt's study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine stated that a third of the ICU patients surveyed suffered mental impairments like those stemming from brain injuries, while a fourth suffered impairments like those from Alzheimer's.

The study showed that the longer a patient suffered from delirium while in the hospital, the more likely the patient was to develop dementia upon release from the hospital. The study also showed that the age-old practice of putting critically ill patients in drug-induced comas contributed to a patient's risk of also developing the degenerative disease. Age did not have a factor on the results. For example, a 44-year-old patient was just as likely to develop dementia after drug-induced comas as a 60-year-old patient.

People who suffer from mental impairment because of drug-induced comas might be able to seek compensation for their conditions. Medical malpractice attorneys might be able to help them compile their complaints and negotiate settlements.

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

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