A new study out of Western University is shining the light on a problem facing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients and issues when it comes to cognitive function.

It’s a concerning health issue that Lawson Health Research Institute scientist Marat Slessarev fears has being going undetected.

“Patients who stay in the intensive care unit for non-brain injuries issues...actually sustain impairment of brain function.”

Led by a team of Western and Lawson researchers, a new study shows ICU patients are likely leaving the hospital after recovery with undiagnosed cognitive impairments.

“Patients, including their family members or caregivers don’t always recognize that this is an issue especially since direct brain injury wasn’t involved”, says Dr. Kimia Honarmand from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The discovery was made by using online tests developed at Western to detect cognitive deficits in patients who have spent time in the ICU.

Slessarev says, “It can actually tell us which specific domain of cognition was impaired. Is it attention? Is it memory? Is it decision-making?”

Twenty recovering ICU patients at the London Health Sciences Centre that had no prior cognitive impairments took part in the study.

All the patients were found to have impairment, which can cause significant issues when the recovering patient tries to go back to living a normal life.

“They could be affected in their ability to go back to the place of work, go back to employment and if they do go back to employment they may have difficulty performing the tasks they used to perform,” says Honarmand.

The research team plans to take these findings and conduct follow-up studies, as well as work with these patients on recovery options.