Study: Cognitive impairment common after critical illness - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Study: Long-term cognitive impairment common after critical illness

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At just 46, Lisa Uribe struggles with her memory. Her problems started after a long stay in intensive care after developing sepsis.

"I just have a tremendous problem multitasking," she said. "The confusion, the getting lost, being somewhere and not knowing why you are there."

New research shows many patients like Uribe with no history of learning or memory problems can leave the hospital with long-term cognitive impairment. Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at about 800 ICU patients. They found 74 percent developed delirium in the hospital, which made them more likely to have a dementia-like disease even a year after discharge.

"What nobody has ever shown before is that in a general surgical ICU population that three out of four people are leaving the hospital with profound cognitive impairment that looks a lot like Alzheimer's disease or traumatic brain injury," said Dr. E. Wesley Ely, a professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University.

Researchers say patients may benefit from rehabilitation that exercises the brain. And they suggest a change in ICU care, including weaning off sedatives earlier.

"Have patients more awake and alert in the ICU and walking," Ely advised.

It's been more than a year and a half since Uribe left the hospital and she says her symptoms haven't really improved.

"The hardest part for me is the expectation that I have upon myself every day I wake up and I keep thinking this is the day I'm going to go back to my old life," she said.

The mother and grandmother says her scrapbooks have been a lifesaver to help her hold on to her memories.

Doctors are recommending cognitive rehab for Uribe. They've even prescribed a drug to treat Alzheimer's disease to keep what brain function she has.

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