Breaking it Down: What exactly is Post Intensive Care Syndrome?
Every year, thousands of people across the country experience critical illness and/or injury. As our population ages, and technology advances, this number is expected to grow. In 2012, a collaborative group of experts through the Society of Critical Care Medicine came together to discuss the difficulties that were commonly seen in patients who had experienced critical illness and/or injury. The syndrome was officially recognized and the term "Post-Intensive Care Syndrome" or "PICS" was born.
What it is
Overall, PICS is relatively simple in that it is new or worsening health problems after a stay in the ICU. These health problems can affect the body, mind, and/or emotions and often present after the patient has been discharged from the hospital. These problems may last anywhere from a few weeks, to months, and in some cases even years.
Every year, thousands of people across the nation experience critical illness and/or injury
People with PICS often experience the following:
- Body: Tiredness, weakness, pain
- Mind: Forgetfulness, confusion, decreased concentration
- Emotions: Depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, and nightmares
People recovering from critical illness or injury will often experience new physical difficulties. It may be difficult to walk up a flight of stairs, walk out to the mailbox, or even just get around the house. Many people find great difficulty in previous activities such as driving a vehicle. It is not uncommon for people to experience a delay in returning to work or school, and in some cases that return is impossible.
Cognitive changes (or changes to one's mind) such as forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, are also experienced by people who have been critically ill/injured. People report difficulty with word finding making communication much more difficult than it had previously been. Unlike physical weakness and debility, problems with one's mind are not so readily recognized by others, making this even more of a burden on those experiencing it. It is not uncommon for the person affected by cognitive changes to try to hide these problems.
The emotional affects of critical illness/injury can be long lasting. Often the illness and/or injury itself that resulted in an ICU stay creates anxiety. There is worry about the illness coming back or the injury happening again. A stay in the ICU is often the very first time that people are faced with the reality of just how fragile life can be. Depression, sleep disturbances, and vivid nightmares are also reported.
Stay tuned to next month's blog to learn about risk factors for the development of Post-Intensive Care Syndrome.
In the meantime, join our conversation online. Have you or a loved one experienced critical illness/injury? You're not alone. Share your story and connect with others who have been on the same journey:
Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) - Let's Talk
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I would love to join this group. I was in the ICU 6 days the first time. Discharged. 2 weeks later I'm back there. Drs dont know why. I was intubated, raced to Vancouver hospital 1.5 hours away arriving in their ICU on life support and had a bronchoscopy and other tests. Extubated 2 days later. Total days in that ICU 5. I am having almost every symptom of PIC except delirium or nightmares. Flashbacks? Definitely. I've been afraid to drive because this illness DID happen twice and the second time sepsis was involved! I'm also afraid to get too physical incase my oxygen saturation drop and dont come back up! Thank you!!!!
You can join the PICS discussion group here:
– Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) – Let's Talk https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/post-intensive-care-syndrome-pics-lets-talk/
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@yvonne55– Your many fears seem to be overtaking you. Regardless of any groups you join please seek psychiatric counseling. Having this many severe illnesses and interventions so close to each other would wreak havoc on anyone. I hope that you will sincerely give this a deep thought.
Do you have a family at home that can help you, make food, help you bathe, or do whatever you need?