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Correlation found between brain damage and long ICU stays

North Carolina readers may be interested to know that a study at Vanderbilt University seems to indicate that long-term stays in the ICU can cause a loss of cognitive function that can last for up to a year after a patient's release. The results of the study, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed evidence that more than 30 percent of patients suffer from mental deficits that are similar to a moderate traumatic brain injury. It also indicated that another quarter of patients have issues that are similar to the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. The results of this study may lead to techniques that yield better outcomes and cut down on the number of medical malpractice cases.

The study recommends hospitals keep patients alert and out of bed whenever possible. It is thought that drug-induced comas may do more harm than good. One doctor stated that great care is taken of the patient's organs with the exception of the brain. The study seems to confirm this observation because it found that the longer a patient is suffering from delirium in the hospital, the longer his or her condition was likely to persist after discharge.

Between March 2007 and May 2010, the study tracked patients admitted to Saint Thomas West Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center; 382 patients were given cognitive tests for signs of dementia the year following their discharge. The study also indicates that age wasn't a factor in how long the symptoms persisted.

It may be wise to allow a medical malpractice attorney to review the case if a patient feels that a doctor or hospital's treatment has left him or her with cognitive disabilities. The attorney may be able to offer options for settlements that could cover ongoing physical therapy, medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: USA Today, "Study: Extended ICU stays cause brain damage", Tom Wilemon, October 02, 2013

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