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Keywords:

  • CAM-ICU;
  • delirium;
  • HRQoL ;
  • ICU ;
  • illustration;
  • memories;
  • nursing;
  • SF-36

Aims and objectives

To investigate the effects of delirium in the intensive care unit on health-related quality of life, healthcare dependency and memory after discharge and to explore the association between health-related quality of life and memories, patient diaries and intensive care unit follow-up.

Background

Up to 83% of intensive care unit patients experience delirium. In addition to increased risk of mortality, morbidity and cognitive impairment, the experience itself is unpleasant. A number of studies have focused on memories associated with delirium, but the association between delirium, memories and health-related quality needs further investigation.

Design

We used an observational multicentre design with telephone interviews.

Methods

Adult intensive care unit patients (n = 360) were consecutively recruited and interviewed using the intensive care unit-Memory Tool one week after intensive care unit. Interviews were repeated after two and six months and supplemented with Short Form-36 and the Barthel Index.

Results

Delirium was detected in 60% of the patients in our study, and delirious patients had significantly fewer factual memories and more memories of delusion than nondelirious patients up to six months postintensive care unit discharge. Delirium, memories and intensive care unit diaries with follow-up did not affect health-related quality of life and healthcare dependency. Memories of delusions might have an impact on patients assessed as nondelirious.

Conclusions

More than half of the patients in intensive care unit experience delirium, which is associated with fewer factual memories and more memories of delusions. Short Form-36 might not be sensitive to delirium-related outcomes. Future research should include the development of better assessment tools to determine the long-term consequences of intensive care unit delirium.

Relevance to clinical practice

We recommend regular assessment to prevent, detect and treat delirium. We also recommend an intensive care unit follow-up programme providing an opportunity for postintensive care unit patients, particularly previously delirious patients, to discuss their memories and experiences with intensive care unit professionals.