Long-term consequences of pain, anxiety and agitation for critically ill older patients after an intensive care unit stay

M.M. Jeitziner*, J.P.H. Hamers, R. Bürgin, V. Hantikainen, S.M.G. Zwakhalen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims and objectivesThis study investigated whether an intensive care unit (ICU) stay is associated with persistent pain, anxiety and agitation in critically ill older patients.

BackgroundPatients hospitalised in the ICU are at risk for experiencing pain, anxiety and agitation, but long-term consequences for older patients have rarely been investigated.

DesignProspective nonrandomised longitudinal study.

MethodsPain, anxiety and agitation, measured with a numeric rating scale (0-10), were assessed in older patients (65years) hospitalised in the medical-surgical ICU of a university hospital. Agitation during the ICU was assessed with the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale. Data collection occurred during the ICU, one week after the stay and six and 12months after hospital discharge. Data were collected from an age-matched community-based comparison group at recruitment and after six and 12months. Study recruitment took place from December 2008-April 2011.

ResultsThis study included 145 older patients (ICU group) and 146 comparison group participants. Pain was higher in the ICU group one week after discharge, although pain levels in general were low. Both groups reported no or low levels of pain after six and 12months. Anxiety levels in general were low, although higher in the ICU group one week after ICU discharge. After six and 12months, anxiety in both groups was comparable. Throughout the study, levels of agitation were similar in both groups.

ConclusionsCritically ill older patients did not experience increased pain, anxiety or agitation 12months after an ICU stay.

Relevance to clinical practiceThis study positively shows that an ICU stay is not associated with persistent pain, anxiety and agitation thus providing additional information to older patients and their families when making intensive care treatment decisions. Adequate management of pain during and after an ICU stay may minimise the suffering of older patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2419-2428
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number17-18
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • critical care
  • critically ill older patients
  • long-term outcomes
  • nursing
  • pain

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