Last updated on September 2020

Aloud Real-time Reading of ICU Diaries for Prevention of Negative Post-ICU Psychological Outcomes


Brief description of study

This study will evaluate whether a systematically delivered, patient-oriented real time communication via aloud real time readings of ICU diary entries during patient's ICU stay is feasible

Detailed Study Description

Survivors of sepsis and acute respiratory failure suffer from long-term impairment in the domains of physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning collectively known as post intensive care syndrome (PICS) associated with increased re-hospitalization rates, higher health care costs and impaired quality of life. Pioneering work in the field of early physical rehabilitation of intensive care unit (ICU) patients and in identification of strategies for delirium reduction demonstrated improvement in physical and cognitive outcomes. Prevention of psychological complications, however, has not been adequately addressed. Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affect over a third of all critical illness survivors post discharge, which is more than double of what has been reported in combat veterans. Despite the staggering rates of mental health morbidity, research on targeting preventive measures to be employed in the ICU before development of psychological symptoms has earned sparse attention. Memories of frightening and delusional experiences appear to be the strongest potentially modifiable risk factor, with higher rates of PTSD reported in those who had delusional memories without recall of factual events. Indeed, psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD can be conceptualized as disorders of memory content, whereby the neural representation of the emotional component of the memory of a traumatic experience persists beyond any adaptive purpose. This causes dysregulation in the fear memory system, resulting in pathology associated with impaired cognitive, affective, and volitional functions. Research on the formation of fear memories demonstrates that one can interfere with the initial process of fear conditioning during the temporal windows when memory consolidation and reconsolidation occur.

Therefore, a potential approach to treatment may be to introduce mitigating/factual information during the time period when the consolidation of the initial memory occurs and also following its initial recall, because at this time memories are labile and susceptible to alteration; however, the longer a memory has been stored in the brain, the more difficult it is to destabilize and alter it, explaining the lack of effectiveness of outpatient interventions. For the critically ill this would mean introducing some form of communication as soon as feasible following admission and providing communication in parallel with medical care in the ICU. Even though semantic processing continues in an altered states of consciousness, very little verbal communication systematically takes place with sedated and/or cognitively altered patients during the time window when the negative memories are being formed. How can such communication be introduced?

A lot of patients receive ICU diaries following hospital discharge. The original design that has remained unchanged on over 30 years has care team and family members write entries of the patient's daily events, written in a non-medical language. Despite decades of research, ICU diaries failed to demonstrate consistent benefit for mental health outcomes. What if the reason is simply due to the timing of the information provided? What is reading the entries in real time, as the events unfold, can provide that protective factual information to mitigate formation of traumatic memories?

The investigators hypothesize that reading ICU diary entries aloud in real time (in addition to providing them to patients following hospital discharge as has been the standard previously) is feasible and may translate into improved mental health outcomes including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD as well as more delirium free days. Doing so systematically may mitigate formation of false negative memories, provide reorientation and factual information, and thus help patients understand what is happening to them in real time.

This will be accomplished via the following aim:

Specific Aim #1: To conduct a feasibility trial of reading ICU diaries aloud daily and to refine the intervention based on stakeholder feedback Objective 1: ICU diaries will be read aloud in real time daily to 30 enrolled patients by ICU nurses/therapists. The approach will subsequently be refined based on semi-structured interviews of all involved stakeholders (patients, families, nurses, therapists). Patients will also complete anxiety, depression, acute stress/PTSD and cognitive function evaluation as measured by validated instruments.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT04510272

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Mayo Clinic in Rochester

Rochester, MN United States
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Recruitment Status: Open


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