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New research programme will help intensive care patients

The care and treatment patients receive in intensive care has changed in the past decade. New ways of treating and supporting former intensive care patients with cognitive impairment therefore need to be found. A new rehabilitation programme will focus on the cognitive challenges patients encounter both in intensive care and after being discharged to their home. The Novo Nordisk Foundation is supporting this research with a grant of DKK 7.5 million.

Patients who end up in intensive care because of acute and critical illness need care and treatment with advanced technical equipment. This care and treatment have changed in the past decade, with fewer patients undergoing induced coma. This means that more are now awake while in intensive care.

In clinical nursing practice, this trend poses many great challenges, especially because patients often experience cognitive changes such as reduced concentration and blurred memory, and on discharge these cognitive changes can affect patients for years as they struggle to regain everyday life as they knew it.

Pia Dreyer, a professor at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, is leading a new research project that aims to support the rehabilitation of patients with cognitive impairment both in intensive care and during follow-up in their home. As part of the research, a new programme is being developed that will focus on one of the greatest problems patients face after critical illness and intensive care: cognitive impairment.

“We still know very little about how patients experience cognitive impairment, the best time to intervene and which interventions can support their cognitive rehabilitation and regaining everyday life after acute, critical illness. With the new research, we aim to implement cognitive rehabilitation for patients both as inpatients and after being discharged to their home,” explains Pia Dreyer.

Cognitive impairment is a challenge for intensive care patients
ICU-CogHab – the ICU Cognitive Rehabilitation Nursing Research Programme will be implemented at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital in collaboration with Lillebælt Hospital. The Programme will investigate the optimal time for patients to undergo cognitive rehabilitation, the role the patients’ family plays and the interventions a cognitive rehabilitation programme should include. In addition, the researchers will investigate how effective the Programme is – and ensure that the Programme is implemented more widely if it improves patients’ lives.

Six studies under the programme will develop, test, evaluate and implement nurse-led interventions supporting patients’ cognitive rehabilitation throughout the care pathway from intensive care to the home. The studies are expected to reduce patients’ cognitive impairment and improve their ability to perform the activities of daily living and their quality of life.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is supporting the project with a grant of DKK 7.5 million through its Nursing Research Programme.

“This is very relevant research. Since the treatment of intensive care patients has changed greatly in recent years, there is a need for clinical nursing research that both maps the effects of these changes and devises solutions and methods that can alleviate patients’ cognitive impairment and involve both the patients and their families,” says Niels-Henrik von Holstein-Rathlou, Senior Vice President, Biomedicine & Health Sciences, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation Nursing Research Programme

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Nursing Research Programme was launched in 2015. The Foundation recently extended the Programme and has allocated DKK 37.5 million to it for 2021–2025 to support five research projects with grants of up to DKK 7.5 million per project.

Further information

Sabina Askholm Larsen, Communications Partner, Novo Nordisk Foundation, +45 2367 3226, [email protected]

Pia Dreyer, Professor, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, +45 6167 7490, [email protected]