Monday, March 11, 2013

Simple changes in the ICU can reduce delirium

This article discusses research showing that better sleep can reduce delirium in ICU patients. Many patients in an intensive care unit get delirious - a brain disorder that leaves the patient confused, sleepy, inattentive. It can be dangerous and hard to treat. Getting too little sleep can exacerbate delirium. ICU's are not known for their good sleep environment with constant interruptions by staff to assess these really sick patients. This research showed that simple environmental changes were able to reduce delirium by 54%. The interventions included turning off televisions, turning off room and hallway lights, limiting the number of staff visits to patient rooms overnight for drawing blood and giving medications to reduce interruptions, reducing overhead pages and minimizing unnecessary equipment alarms. The patients also were offered eye masks, ear plugs, and tranquil music. In the final stage, a new medication guideline was introduced that discouraged giving patients certain commonly prescribed drugs for sleep, such as benzodiazepines, that are known to cause delirium.

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