Rethinking drug-induced comas in ICU

With implications for patients in New Jersey and across the nation, on Oct. 2, The New England Journal of Medicine reported that a third of patients who stay in an intensive-care unit at a hospital suffer cognitive losses that can last for up to a year. Vanderbilt University released the study, and further indications show that about 25 percent of patients suffer symptoms similar to mild Alzheimer's disease. They said that hospitals can counter these effects by helping patients stay alert, getting them out of beds and avoiding drug-induced comas.

A Vanderbilt professor explained that hospitals have usually looked at the rest of the body, failing to care for the brain. This medical negligence can contribute to increased dementia when a patient is released, especially for those who are placed in drug-induced comas. Another Vanderbilt professor who authored the study said that patients should be kept awake even if they are on life support. He added that drug-induced comas raise the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and loss of mental capacity.

The study looked at patients in ICU over more than a three-year period at two hospitals. Nearly 400 patients were tested for dementia a year after their hospital discharge. Age did not seem to impact the results of the study. The second professor emphasized the need for pain management but said patients should not be placed into a drug-induced coma because it negatively affected cognitive function after the patient's release.

When someone enters the hospital, they expect to receive a certain standard of care that will help them recover. Contacting a personal injury attorney may be a good first step for those who have suffered permanent or debilitating injury after a hospital stay. Our personal injury lawyers might be able to help clients pursue financial compensation from the responsible parties.