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Longer ICU stays could lead to brain damage

People in Ohio might be alarmed to hear that longer stays in ICU units could lead to brain damage. Research conducted by Vanderbilt University suggested that the longer patients were kept in drug-induced comas in ICU units, the more likely they were to experience mental damage that was similar to that of traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's disease.

The results of the Vanderbilt study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and showed that stays in ICU units could be bad for patients' brains. According to the results of the survey, a third of ICU patients ended up experiencing symptoms similar to those of a traumatic brain injury. A fourth of patients ended up experiencing symptoms similar to those of a mild stage of Alzheimer's disease.

A Vanderbilt professor stated that doctors tend to take care of every other organ and ignore the brain. The Vanderbilt study suggested that hospitals should do a better job of keeping patients mobile and mentally alert. They study also said that hospitals should realize the mental dangers of keeping patients in drug-induced comas. Authors of the study said that hospitals should have a cultural shift in how they treat their critically ill patients. Rather than keeping them drugged, they should keep them awake and alert even though they are on life support. This is not to say that their comfort and pain should not be priorities. However, once the pain is under control, they shouldn't induce deeper states of sedation.

Patients who have experienced a loss in their mental capacities because of drug-induced comas might be able to seek compensation for their conditions with the assistance of medical malpractice attorneys. Attorneys might be able to help them seek favorable settlements for their claims.

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

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