Children's factual and delusional memories of intensive care

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 May 1;177(9):976-82. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200706-857OC. Epub 2008 Jan 31.


Rationale: Delusional memories are significantly associated with post-traumatic stress in adult patients after intensive care.

Objectives: In this study, we attempted to establish whether this relationship was found in children. We also examined the association between factual memory and distress.

Methods: One hundred two consecutive children, aged between 7 and 17 years, were interviewed about their pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) experience 3 months after discharge from a PICU. Principal measures were the ICU Memory Tool (a checklist of intensive care memories) and an abbreviated version of the Impact of Event Scale (a screen for post-traumatic stress disorder).

Measurements and main results: In total, 64 of 102 (63%) children reported at least one factual memory of their admission and 33 of 102 (32%) reported delusional memories, including disturbing hallucinations. Traumatic brain injury was negatively associated with factual memory (odds ratio, 0.23; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.09-0.58; P = 0.002). Longer duration of opiates/benzodiazepines was associated with delusional memory (odds ratio, 4.98; 95% CI, 1.3-20.0; P = 0.023). Post-traumatic stress scores were higher in children reporting delusional memories (adjusted difference, 3.0; 95% CI, 0.06-5.9; P = 0.045) when illness severity and emergency status were controlled for. Factual memory was not significantly associated with post-traumatic stress.

Conclusions: This study indicates that delusional memories are reported by almost one-third of children and are associated both with the duration of opiates/benzodiazepines and risk of post-traumatic stress. More research is needed on the presence of delusional memories and associated risk factors in children receiving intensive care treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*