Zombie Patients From the ICU

February 22, 2009

Posted by Cort Johnson

What do infection, stress, over-exercising and the intensive care unit have in common? Different researchers believe that each can trigger a chronic fatigue syndrome-like (ME/CFS) state. A recent article in the New York Times added a short stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) to the list.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant percentage of ICU patients experience significant and sometimes disabling fatigue, cognitive problems and mood changes after being discharged from the ICU unit. Particularly compelling was the case of a high school athlete who, after a week in the ICU unit battling pnuemonia, deteriorated greatly after being discharged. A year later this former athlete tested below normal in fitness with his mother proclaiming that his mood and cognitive abilities had changed greatly.

This group of fatigued, cognitively challenged and ‘moody’ patients joins a long list of other patients with mysterious ME/CFS-like ailments. They include a significant number of post-cancer patient, heart surgery, hepatitis patients treated with interferon, and a host of other patients whose lives have been derailed even as they’ve been pronounced ‘cured’ by the medical profession.

Their presence could signal a brighter future for perennially underfunded ME/CFS researchers once the research community connects the dots between all these ‘different’ types of patients. Right now research into this mysterious problem is minimal but in the last year the New York Times has highlighted both cancer and ICU patients with mysterious fatigue. Collectively speaking the number of patients with mysterious fatigue and cognitive problems is huge

One ME/CFS researcher, Dr. Andrew Lloyd of the Dubbo project, is very interested in these patients – he believes they all have some form of ‘ME/CFS’ and he has done a small study comparing them. Two problems: getting more money to study these patients and overcoming reluctance of other researchers to include chronic fatigue syndrome patients in their studies.

Check out Nadine Sauber’s interesting blog on interferon treatment, hepatitis and ME/CFS.

Check out more information on the “A Disease of Many Faces? Fatigue in CFS, FM, Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer”

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