ICU Psychosis (cont.)

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Can ICU psychosis be prevented?

The primary goal is to correct any imbalance, restore the patient's health, and return the patient to normal activities as quickly as possible. To help prevent ICU psychosis, many critical care units are now:

  • using more liberal visiting policies,
  • providing periods for sleep,
  • protecting the patient from unnecessary excitement,
  • minimizing shift changes in the nursing staff caring for a patient, orienting the patient to the date and time,
  • reviewing all medical procedures with an explanation about what to expect,
  • asking the patient if there are any questions or concerns,
  • talking with the family to obtain information regarding religious and cultural beliefs, and
  • even coordinating the lighting with the normal day-night cycle, etc.

How long does ICU psychosis last?

ICU psychosis often vanishes magically with the coming of morning or the arrival of some sleep. However, it may last 24 hours or even up to two weeks with fluctuations of the level of consciousness and behavior patterns. Although it may linger through the day, agitation frequently is worst at night. (This phenomenon, called sundowning, is also common in nursing homes).

Fortunately, ICU psychosis usually resolves completely when the patient leaves the ICU.

How common is ICU psychosis?

Some estimate that one patient in every three who spends more than five days in an ICU experiences some form of psychotic reaction. As the number of intensive care units and the patient population in them grow, the number of individuals affected by this disorder will correspondingly increase. With patients being transferred out of the ICU more rapidly than in years past; ICU psychosis may be more common in other areas such as the regular medical floor of the hospital or sometimes may even occur after discharge from the hospital.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2014

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ICU Psychosis - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you or someone you know experience with an ICU psychosis? How long did they last?
ICU Psychosis - Treatment Question: What types of treatment, including therapy and medication, were used for an ICU psychosis in you or a relative?