[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
July 16, 2019

Psychological Consequences of Admission to the ICU: Helping Patients and Families

Author Affiliations
  • 1Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Critical Care Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 4Center for Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA. 2019;322(3):213-215. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9059

For most patients and their families, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) is an unanticipated event that causes substantial psychological distress. For patients, short- and long-term consequences include delirium, anxiety, depression, and acute and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).1 Psychological consequences may be exacerbated by delusions experienced during delirium,2 which is common among critically ill patients and has adverse effects on physical and cognitive function and leads to increased health care use and costs.3 For families, anxiety and acute stress arise from concern and uncertainty regarding the prognosis of their family member. Long-term psychological effects in family members appear similar to those experienced by patients.4 Mitigating these effects is increasingly recognized as a core objective of critical care, along with managing and preventing organ failure and providing timely prognostic information and compassionate end-of-life care when appropriate.