Children in Intensive Care Often Have Delusional Memories

May 1, 2008

One-third of children discharged from pediatric intensive care experience delusional memories of their experience and are at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to research published in the May 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

THURSDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- One-third of children discharged from pediatric intensive care experience delusional memories of their experience and are at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to research published in the May 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Gillian Colville, of St. George's Hospital in London, U.K., and colleagues conducted a study of 102 children aged 7 to 17 years who had been discharged from pediatric intensive care three months earlier. The children were interviewed to ascertain their memories of intensive care and to check for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

At least one factual memory of admission was reported by 64 children (63 percent) and 33 children (32 percent) reported delusional memories such as disturbing hallucinations. Children who reported delusional memories had higher odds of experiencing post-traumatic stress regardless of severity of illness and emergency status, the investigators found. There was also an association between the odds of delusional memory and duration of use of opiates/benzodiazepines.

"Because these children are at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, by virtue of the circumstances leading up to admission as well as the invasive nature of their treatment, improved psychological monitoring of this group is advisable, so that timely support can be made available, in the interests of optimizing recovery," the authors write.

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