PTSD/PICS & Veterans

Any stay at an intensive care unit (ICU) can be an emotional roller coaster for both the patient and friends and family, many times leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS).  The emotional wounds of trauma are like any physical injury.  Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean unhealed wounds aren’t affecting your health and overall well-being.  Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder treated with mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit have higher requirements for sedatives.  Their ICU care should incorporate proper awareness of their PTSD, with particular attention to their sedation regimen.  Research shows a statistical trend toward higher mortality in the ICU for patients with PTSD.  Between 10 and 20 percent of veterans who served in the Vietnam War, Gulf War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have PTSD in any given year, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

 This is why the Exersides Refraint is vitally important for anyone with PTSD or at risk for PICS. Watch VA nurses Pam and Carol as they take their first look at the Exersides Refraint restraint alternative, designed to reduce fear and agitation and thereby decrease sedation needs and increase freedom and mobility.

Because of the advances in medicine over the last several decades, more people now survive critical illnesses.  Clinicians used to focus more on the immediate short-term outcomes of these patients.  More recently, medical professionals have shifted their attention to the long-term outcomes of survivors of critical illnesses.  What they discovered is that although ICU survival improved, patients did not return to their former level of function for weeks, months and even years.  Patients developed mind, body and emotional symptoms related to their critical illness and treatment in the ICU.

The Military and Veterans are not the only ones to experience PTSD and PICS.  PTSD can also occur from an emotional trauma not sustained in the military like an assault or an accident.  Anyone who survives a critical illness that warranted admission to an ICU is susceptible to developing PICS or PTSD.

PICS results from the combination of factors.  Care in the ICU can be intense due to the serious medical conditions themselves (such as respiratory failure, sepsis); use of life-sustaining equipment (such as endotracheal tubes, mechanical ventilators); physical restraints to protect life sustaining equipment and use of sedative, pain and other medications that have mind-altering (including delusional) effects.  Patient exposure to all of these unique stressors can affect many aspects of the ICU survivor’s life.


Scroll to Top