Intensive Care Medicine

, 35:2078 | Cite as

Patients’ memory and psychological distress after ICU stay compared with expectations of the relatives

  • Hilde MyhrenEmail author
  • Kirsti Tøien
  • Øivind Ekeberg
  • Susanne Karlsson
  • Leiv Sandvik
  • Olav Stokland



To compare patients’ psychological distress and memories from intensive care unit (ICU) treatment 4–6 weeks after ICU discharge with expectations of their relatives. Further, to explore the relationship between personality traits and ICU memories with psychological distress.


A cross-sectional study of 255 patients and 298 relatives. The questionnaire included: hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS), impact of event scale (IES), life orientation test, ICU memory tool and memory of ICU; technical procedures, pain, lack of control and inability to express needs. Relatives were assessed for their expectations of the patients’ memories and psychological distress.


Twenty-five percent of the patients reported severe posttraumatic stress symptoms, IES-total ≥ 35. The levels of anxiety and depression were significantly higher than in the general population, mean anxiety was 5.6 versus 4.2 (p < 0.001), and mean depression was 4.8 versus 3.5 (p < 0.001). Relatives expected more psychological distress and the relatives thought the patient was less able to express needs than the patients reported (p < 0.001). Higher age, unemployment, respirator treatment, pessimism, memory of pain, lack of control and inability to express needs were independent predictors of posttraumatic stress symptoms (p < 0.01).


Psychological distress symptoms were frequent among ICU survivors. Relatives expected the patients to be more distressed after ICU treatment than the patients reported. The strongest predictors of posttraumatic stress symptoms from the ICU were memoris about pain, lack of control and inability to express needs. Pessimism may be a reason for psychological distress and should be addressed during follow up, as pessimistic patients may need more motivation and support.


Anxiety Posttraumatic stress Patients Relatives Pessimism Memory Q 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Copyright jointly hold by Springer and ESICM 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilde Myhren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kirsti Tøien
    • 1
  • Øivind Ekeberg
    • 2
    • 4
  • Susanne Karlsson
    • 1
  • Leiv Sandvik
    • 3
  • Olav Stokland
    • 1
  1. 1.Intensive Care UnitOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Acute MedicineOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  3. 3.Section of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  4. 4.Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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