ICUs become a 'delirium factory' for Covid-19 patients

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The severity of coronavirus and the heightened risk of infection have forced medical teams to abandon many of the practices that help them protect patients from delirium, a common side effect of mechanical ventilators and intensive care.

Although Covid-19 is best known for damaging the lungs, it also increases the risk of life-threatening brain injuries — from mental confusion to hallucinations, seizures, coma, stroke and paralysis. The virus may invade the brain, and it can starve the brain of oxygen by damaging the lungs. To fight the infection, the immune system sometimes overreacts, battering the brain and other organs it normally protects.

All of these factors make coronavirus patients extremely vulnerable to delirium. In a recent article in Critical Care, researchers said the intensive care unit has become a"delirium factory.""The way we're having to care for patients right now is probably contributing to more mortality and bad outcomes than the virus itself," said Dr. Sharon Inouye, a geriatrician at Harvard Medical School and Hebrew SeniorLife, a long-term care facility in Boston.


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