Morning Rounds: Can you get dementia from the ICU?

(CBS News) CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook and CBS News contributor Dr. Holly Phillips discussed on "CBS This Morning: Saturday" the major medical stories of the week.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals a disturbing aftereffect of time spent in an intensive care unit. Patients are going into the hospital for treatment of a physical illness and coming out with dementia, even when they had no evidence of it before.

ICU patients often leave with dementia, study shows

The study shows that 75 percent of patients are leaving with cognitive impairment. According to LaPook, one of the most "shocking" parts of this study is that many of the impacted patients are in their 30s and 40s.

LaPook said that hospitals are getting very "aggressive" in their attempt to combat this problem.

"They are decreasing sedation, which can increase delirium," he said. "They're getting people up and around, so if you're lying in bed, that can increase a change in your mental status. They're having people walk up and down the ICU, even dragging their ventilators behind them with a physical therapist there to help them."

LaPook also explained that hospitals are trying to create a defined day and night cycle so that patients can identify what time of day it is.

It's not just the hospitals that can help; there are steps that can be taken by family members to assist their loved ones in the ICU. LaPook said to bring patients their comforts of home, such as eyeglasses and hearing aides, and to remind them of the time of day or even what day it is.

Also, a new report about hormone replacement therapy for women in menopause was released by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The group followed almost 30,000 women starting in 1993. They found that in many cases the possible benefits of hormones are outweighed by increased risks of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke and dementia.

"This is a very, very big study, very clear findings, and now they followed these results for a good 10, 11 years. So the message is very clear," said Phillips. "We've also changed our thinking about menopause. You know, menopause isn't an illness, right? It's a normal part of the lifecycle, so you don't need to necessarily throw medications at it."

There are some other options besides hormone therapy for women dealing with menopause complications, including basic exercise.

"Some women have had good luck with herbal supplements and changing their diet, and for very few women, hormonal replacement used in extremely low dosages for a short time is prescribed," said Phillips. "But bar none, the best thing you can do is exercise. Aerobic exercise in the morning cuts down hot flashes during the day, increases your concentration and helps you sleep better."

For Dr. Jon LaPook and Dr. Holly Phillips' full roundup on this week's medical stories, watch the video in the player above.

Check out more from Morning Rounds with Dr. LaPook

  • Shoshana Davis

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