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COVID-19 Related

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After the Storm: UPMC’s Critical Illness Recovery Center Focuses on Post-Intensive Care Syndrome

Andy Mulkerin

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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Critical Care Physicians, General Medical Professionals, Nurses and/or Other Critical Care Medical Professionals

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Early this year, when the world was first coming to grips with the spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it would present, Dr. Brad Butcher, a critical care medicine specialist at UPMC Mercy, was focused on what was coming next.
“We heard that patients who required time in the intensive care unit, and particularly time on a mechanical ventilator, were staying on the ventilator for a very long time,” he said. “This is concerning because the longer people stay in bed, the more physical weakness can develop, and the longer they’re on ventilation, the more drugs they need to sedate them.”
Additional medication increases the risk of patients developing delirium, which raises the likelihood of long-term cognitive complications from the critical illness. These conditions would only be intensified by the limited interactions with care providers and loved ones permitted by COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We were very concerned that these patients would be at increased risk for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Butcher said.
In other words, COVID-19 had the potential to create a perfect storm in the realm where Butcher and his colleague Tammy Eaton, C.R.N.P., specialize: Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). PICS is a set of conditions that have been around as long as critical care medicine, but it received a name only a decade ago. Addressing PICS is the mission of the UPMC Critical Illness Recovery Center (CIRC), which Butcher and Eaton founded at UPMC Mercy.

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