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Thursday 20th October 2016

Sick children haunted by visions

2nd May 2008

New research has suggested that about a third of children admitted to intensive care units will suffer frightening hallucinations.


The study of 100 children discovered that those who had hallucinations were more likely to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder three months later.

Researchers said it was not clear whether the problem was linked to medication or the severity of the condition.

The study, one of the first to have been carried out in relation to children and intensive care, was led by Gillian Colville, who is a consultant clinical psychologist at St George’s Hospital in London, and published in the American Journal of Respiratory and critical Care Medicine.

She interviewed children aged 7 to 17 who had been treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and found that 32% reported delusional memories, including hallucinations. They also had significantly higher scores on post-traumatic stress screening tests.

She added: “The hallucinations children reported were overwhelmingly disturbing and frightening, similar to those reported by adult intensive care patients and heroin addicts going through withdrawal.?

Dr Christine Pierce, consultant in paediatric intensive care at Great Ormond Street, said parents were now warned that their children may have hallucinations.

Dr Reinout Mildner, consultant in paediatric intensive care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said the results were consistent with what he was seeing on the wards he worked on.

But he added: “It isn’t clear, because the children are very ill, whether it’s to do with the severity of their illness or the drugs used to treat it.?


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