Psychological Problems Plague Many Survivors of Serious Accidents

By Rick Naurert PhD
November 25th, 2021
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.

Psychological Problems Plague Many Survivors of Serious Accidents The good news is that contemporary medical care and technology saves lives after critical illnesses and accidents; the bad news is that long-term hospitalizations and need for mechanical ventilation is associated with serious psychosocial issues.

A new study discovers the first few months after discharge from a facility are critical, said professor of clinical epidemiology Dr. Henrik Toft Sørensen of Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

Sørensen lead the largest-to-date study of psychiatric problems before and after treatment that involves mechanical ventilation treatment.

The results, as published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, and insomnia after ventilator patients are discharged from the hospital.

In the study, 24,179 mechanically ventilated patients admitted to all Danish intensive care units in the period 2006-2008 were compared with other admitted patients, as well as with the general population.

“The study shows that up to 13 percent of the ventilator patients — that’s to say one in seven — were prescribed medication for psychological problems within the first three months after the hospital admission.

“We were well aware that there was an increased risk, but we had not expected the figure to be so high,” said Sørensen.

“By comparison, five percent of the patients who had not been mechanically ventilated received medication for psychological problems after the hospital admission.”

The medication typically covers sleeping medicine, anxiety medication, or antidepressant medicine.

Half a percent of the mechanically ventilated patients had such severe psychological problems that they received a psychiatric diagnosis from a psychiatric hospital within the first three months after the hospital discharge.

Sørensen believes that there is a considerable need for an increased focus on prevention and treatment of psychological problems in patients who survive critical illness.

“Psychological problems have profound human and socioeconomic costs,” he said. “Among patients, relatives and medical doctors, there ought to be a much greater degree of knowledge and awareness of the long-term consequences of critical illness.

“It is important that we all become better at taking early steps towards the right prevention and treatment.”

Source: Aarhus University


Patient in critical care hospital photo by shutterstock.

Dr. Rick Naurert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Naurert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.