Surrogates of Patients With Severe Acute Brain Injury Experience Persistent Anxiety and Depression Over the 6 Months After ICU Admission



      Severe Acute Brain Injury (SABI) is neurologically devastating, and surrogates for these patients may struggle with particularly complex decisions due to substantial prognostic uncertainty.


      To compare anxiety and depression symptoms over time between SABI surrogates and non-SABI surrogates for patients requiring prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV).


      We conducted a secondary analysis of the data from a multicenter randomized trial of a decision aid intervention for surrogates of adults experiencing PMV. Eligible patients were enrolled from medical, surgical, trauma, cardiac, and neurologic intensive care units (ICUs). ICU admitting diagnoses were used to identify patients experiencing SABI. We compared anxiety and depression symptoms as measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale score 6 months after trial enrollment between surrogates of patients with SABI and surrogates of patients experiencing PMV for other reasons.


      Our analysis included 206 patients, 60 (29%) with SABI and 146 (71%) without SABI, and their primary surrogate decision makers. After adjusting for potential confounders including surrogate demographics, surrogate financial distress, patient severity of illness baseline GCS, and patient health status at 6 months, we found that surrogates of patients experiencing SABI had higher symptoms of anxiety and depression than surrogates of non-SABI patients (adjusted mean difference 3.6, 95% CI 1.2–6.0).


      Surrogates of PMV patients with SABI experience persistently elevated anxiety and depression symptoms over 6 months compared to surrogates of PMV patients without SABI. Further work is needed to understand contributors to prolonged distress in this higher risk population.

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