When ICU delirium leads to symptoms of dementia after discharge
| Richard Harris, NPR – Richard Langford still has significant trouble with his mental focus and memory 10 years after a sudden and serious infection landed him in the hospital ICU for several weeks.
Doctors have gradually come to realize that people who survive a serious brush with death in the intensive care unit are likely to develop potentially serious problems with their memory and thinking processes.
This dementia, a side-effect of intensive medical care, can be permanent. And it affects as many as half of all people who are rushed to the ICU after a medical emergency.
Considering that 5.7 million Americans end up in intensive care every year, this is a major problem which, until recently, has been poorly appreciated by medical caregivers.
Take, for example, the story of Richard Langford, a 63-year-old retired minister who lives with his mother in East Nashville.
He went into the hospital for knee surgery 10 years ago, “because I was playing tennis with an 85-year-old and he beat my butt,” Langford says with a chuckle. “So I wanted fresh knees to help me play better.”
But after that routine knee surgery, Langford developed a serious lung infection, which sent him to the intensive care unit.
He had developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition sometimes called blood poisoning. With sepsis, the body overreacts to an infection and that can lead to crashing blood pressure, multiple organ failure and often death.
During his four-week stay in the hospital and the rehab that followed, Langford suffered from long spells of delirium.
That’s a state of muddled thought, confusion and even at times hallucinations in some patients. All Langford remembers is the sensation of a near-death experience. Read more at NPR.