“Releasing a Lot of Poisons from My Mind”: Patients' Delusional Memories of Intensive Care
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Heart & Lung
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To describe intensive care unit (ICU) patients' delusional memories and interpretations of those memories.
Delusional memories of the ICU are distressing for patients and may impact psychological recovery.
This is a secondary analysis from a study of mechanically ventilated patients' recall in relation to sedation. Subjects, recruited from one medical-surgical ICU, participated in structured interviews after extubation.
Subjects (n = 35) with a mean age of 66 (SD 12.9) and on the ventilator a median of 4.5 days provided detailed descriptions of delusional memories of being shackled, caged, strangled, or being in a foreign country. Delusions were very real and frightening in the moment. Subjects had difficulty connecting to reality to allow processing of the delusions.
Patients' delusional memories of ICU share common distressing themes. Assisting patients' to connect to real ICU events and process delusional memories may help with psychological recovery after critical illness.