Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found evidence, based on a study of patients in the University's hospital back to 2007, that drug-induced coma in the hospital's intensive-care unit ("ICU") led to dementia, memory-loss and other symptoms consistent with a mild traumatic brain injury. The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, concluded that age did not matter. A young person with a lengthy stay in an ICU was just as likely as someone in their 60s to suffer from symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury as a result of being in the ICU.
The study showed that about 1 in 3 patients suffered from the symptoms, with the symptoms continuing for up to a year, while about 1 in 4 even suffered from Alzheimer's-like symptoms.
The study's authors point out that, historically, medical doctors and facilities, when treating patients, forget about the effects of treatment on one of the most important organs -- the brain. They encourage a culture shift in hospitals that would involve not inducing coma in patients for prolonged periods or unless necessary, and they also encourage keeping patients awake who are in ICU once pain symptoms are under control. They also encourage getting patients moving a little bit and keeping them aware of their surroundings.