Skip to main content

News

ICU Patients at High Risk for Depression, Anxiety, PTSD

By John Commins  
   April 25, 2016

Two-thirds of the patients who survived acute respiratory distress syndrome and spent time in the ICU self-reported symptoms of at least one of these psychiatric disorders. The disorders can dog patients months after they’ve left the hospital, research shows.

Intensive care patients who survive life threatening illnesses remain at high risk for persistent bouts of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder months after leaving the hospital, especially if they’re young, female, and jobless, according to a recent study from Johns Hopkins University.

The multi-institutional, national study involving more than 40 hospitals, which appears in the May issue of Critical Care Medicine, examined nearly 700 ICU patients. Two-thirds of the patients who survived acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and spent time in the ICU self-reported symptoms of at least one of these psychiatric disorders, and one-third of those patients with at least one psychiatric symptom said they experienced all three at the same time.

The report shows that these psychiatric disorders can dog patients months after they’ve left the hospital. Based on their self-reporting at six months, 36% of participants showed signs of depression, 42% showed signs of anxiety and 24% showed signs of PTSD. At 12 months, prevalence of these symptoms was nearly the same: 36%, 42%, and 23%, respectively.

Of the patients who experienced symptoms of depression, anxiety, or PTSD at six months, more than one-half, 57% to 66%, still had the same symptoms at 12 months, indicating the persistence of the symptoms.

Of the patients at six months without substantial symptoms of depression, anxiety, or PTSD, less than 15% later developed symptoms by the one-year mark. Most important, the researchers say, the majority of survivors, 63%, with any psychiatric illness experienced two or more symptoms at the same time at both six and 12 months.

A total of 645 survivors underwent a phone-based assessment to collect data for this study at the six-month follow-up, and 606 had a similar follow-up at one year. A total of 613 completed at least one psychiatric measure at six months by using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) surveys. There were 316 female and 297 male participants with an average age of 49, 82% of whom were white. At the one-year follow-up, 576 participants completed at least one psychiatric self-assessment.

The younger age group was 16% and 23% more likely to experience anxiety or PTSD, respectively, than the next older age group. Female patients are at 26%, 43%, and 80% higher risk than male patients for depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms, respectively.

Study coauthors Dale Needham, MD, professor of medicine and Joseph Bienvenu, MD, associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, traded emails with HealthLeaders Media about their findings.

HLM: What is it about the ICU experience that prompts such levels of psychiatric distress?

Authors: There are many different factors hypothesized to be associated with these psychiatric symptoms, including:

  • Experiencing a life-threatening situation while in a highly vulnerable state without the ability to effectively communicate and access usual coping skills;
  • Physiological issues such as widespread inflammation; with potential break down of the blood brain barrier
  • Endogenous and exogenous hormonal effects like cathecholamines and corticosteroids.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.