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ICU stay associated with profound cognitive impairment, even in the young

Even young patients are at risk of profound cognitive impairment after a stay in ICU, suggests a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The US researchers enrolled adults with respiratory failure or shock in the medical or surgical ICU and evaluated them for in-hospital delirium, and assessed global cognition and executive function 3 and 12 months after discharge.

One in 4 patients had cognitive impairment a year after release from an ICU that was similar in severity to having mild Alzheimer’s disease, and 1 in 3 had cognitive impairment similar to that seen with moderate traumatic brain injury. Deficits occurred in both older and younger patients.

Patients who had a longer duration of delirium were found to be at particular risk, although use of sedation or analgesia was not associated with cognitive impairment.