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Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 1999 Feb;15(1):19-33.

Acute confusion and unreal experiences in intensive care patients in relation to the ICU syndrome. Part II.

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Intensive Care Unit, Helsingborg Hospital, Sweden.


The intensive care unit syndrome (ICU syndrome) is defined as an altered emotional state occurring in a highly stressful environment, which may manifest itself in various forms such as delirium, confusion, crazy dreams or unreal experiences. The purpose of this part of a study of patients' experiences is to describe and illuminate patients' experiences of acute confusion, disorientation, wakefulness, dreams and nightmares during and after their stay in the ICU. The data were obtained from 19 ventilated patients, who were interviewed twice and had stayed at least 36 hours in the ICU, the first interview being about one week after discharge from the ICU, and the second 4-8 weeks later. The hermeneutic approach used when interpreting and analysing the text from the interviews revealed that patients' experiences of unreal experiences were often associated with intense fear. Intense or continuous unbearable fear seems to result in frightening unreal experiences, which further increase the level of fear. Care actions or caring relationships with relatives or nurses can reduce this fear, which can help to prevent the occurrence and/or duration and intensity of the unreal experiences. Trust and confidence in nurses or significant others and feelings of self-control or trust in self-control seemed to reduce the risk of unreal experiences so that adverse stimuli might only trigger a mild confusion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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