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Memory Loss Following Trauma

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At just 46, Lisa Uribe struggles with her memory. Her problems started after a long stay in intensive care after developing sepsis. "The confusion, the getting lost, being somewhere and not knowing why you are there."

New research shows many patients like Lisa with no history of memory problems can leave the hospital with long-term cognitive impairment. Researchers at Vanderbilt University looked at about 800 ICU patients. They found 74% developed delirium in the hospital which made them more likely to develop a dementia-like disease after discharge. Dr. E. Wesley Ely is a professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University. "What nobody has ever shown before is that in a general surgical ICU population that 3 out of 4 people are leaving the hospital with profound cognitive impairment that looks a lot like Alzheimer's disease or traumatic brain injury."

Delirium is common in patients who are critically ill and confused. Researchers say patients may benefit from rehabilitation that exercises the brain. And they suggest a change in ICU care, including weaning off sedatives earlier. "Have patients more awake and alert in the ICU and walking."

It's been more than a year and a half since Lisa left the hospital. "The hardest part for me is the expectation that I have upon myself every day I wake up and I keep thinking 'this is the day I'm going to go back to my old life.'"

The grandmother says her scrapbooks have been a lifesaver to help her hold on to her memories.

Written By Wendy Damonte
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