Emotional outcome after intensive care: literature review

Janice E. Rattray, Alastair M. Hull

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    67 Citations (Scopus)


    Aim. This paper is a report of a literature review to identify (a) the prevalence of emotional and psychological problems after intensive care, (b) associated factors and (c) interventions that might improve this aspect of recovery.

    Background. Being a patient in intensive care has been linked to both short- and long-term emotional and psychological consequences.

    Data sources. The literature search was conducted during 2006. Relevant journals and databases were searched, i.e. Medline and CINAHL, between the years 1995 and 2006.

    Review methods. The search terms were 'anxiety', 'depression', posttraumatic stress', 'posttraumatic stress disorder' and 'intensive care'.

    Results. Fifteen papers were reviewed representing research studies of anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress, and seven that represented intensive care follow-up clinics and patient diaries. Being in intensive care can result in significant emotional and psychological problems for a number of patients. For the majority of patients, symptoms of distress will decrease over time but for a number these will endure for some years. Current evidence indicates that emotional problems after intensive care are related to both subjective and objective indicators of a patient's intensive care experience. Evidence suggests some benefit in an early rehabilitation programme, daily sedation withdrawal and the use of patient diaries. However, additional research is required to support such findings.

    Conclusion. Our understanding of the consequences of intensive care is improving. Psychological care for intensive care patients has lagged behind care for physical problems. We now need to focus on developing and evaluating appropriate interventions to improve psychological outcome in this patient group.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2-13
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


    • Adult nursing
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Intensive care
    • Literature review
    • Post-traumatic stress
    • Psychological outcome


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