New research funded by international charity Meningitis Research Foundation has highlighted the impact that paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) stay has on children who have been critically ill.
The study which was set up to look at the cognitive and behavioural after effects of children recovering from meningitis and septicaemia, also investigated the impact of hospital stay on children with a range of severe illnesses. The aim was to investigate potential psychological, e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical (e.g. sleep) problems associated with hospital stays in PICU, and whether this was linked to any particular types of disease or was worse after more severe illness.
The results, published in Paediatric Critical Care Medicine, show that children who had been in PICU had a greater chance of developing PTSD, general psychological problems, fatigue or sleep disorders than healthy controls.
Dr Lorraine Als, a Research Psychologist at Imperial College London, who was funded by MRF to conduct the study said,
"Looking at the data we collected, there are several different trends: children who have been in PICU with sepsis seem to suffer higher levels of PTSD, whereas other psychological issues around emotion and behaviour were linked to longer lengths of PICU stay rather than a specific type of illness."
The study also provides some of the first data linking fatigue and sleep disorders with PICU stay, which didn't correlate with type of illness or length of stay. This backs up anecdotal evidence from paediatricians who see children with problems after they have been discharged, and will be important to monitor and follow-up with further research.
MRF Chief Executive Chris Head said,
"School-aged children admitted to PICU show an increased risk for reduced mental and physical wellbeing. This points to the importance of attending to and monitoring emotional symptoms during follow-up surveillance of children with a history of critical illness. It also highlights the importance of vaccines in preventing some of these diseases, including meningitis, in the first place."
To find out more about the after effects of meningitis and septicaemia in children please go to: http://www.meningitis.org/recovery
To find out more about MRF funded research projects please go to: http://www.meningitis.org/current-projects