Around a third of Covid patients thought to experience PTSD symptoms after being on a ventilator

The most commonly recorded symptom was flashbacks of the patient's time in hospital (Photo: Shutterstock)
The most commonly recorded symptom was flashbacks of the patient's time in hospital (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new study of coronavirus patients put on ventilators has revealed that around a third have since suffered from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study, conducted on 13,049 patients by Imperial College London and the University of Southampton, found the most common PTSD symptoms to be intrusive images - sometimes termed "flashbacks".

Examples included images of intensive care (ICU) doctors wearing PPE, the ICU wards, or other patients in intensive care.

The study also found that non-ventilated patients were affected mentally by the experience of being in hospital with coronavirus, with one in five of such patients also experiencing PTSD-like symptoms.

One in six patients given medical help at home for the virus experienced PTSD-like symptoms, while one in 10 patients who did not require help but suffered breathing problems reported similar symptoms.

'This information could reduce the long-term health burden of Covid'

Dr Adam Hampshire, from Imperial College London, said: “We can see that the pandemic is likely to be having an acute and lasting impact, including for a significant proportion of patients who remained at home with respiratory problems and received no medical help.

"This evidence could be important for informing future therapy and reducing the long-term health burden of this disease.”

The data, published in  the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ BJPsych Open on 8 February, was controlled for a number of variables, including age, medical history and income, and was collected in May 2020.

Of the 13,049 people in the study, 9,200 had not experienced breathing problems, 3,466 had breathing problems without medical intervention, 176 required medical help for breathing problems at home, and 147 were admitted to hospital without needing ventilation, while 60 required a ventilator.

PTSD sometimes doesn't occur immediately, with symptoms often setting in after a delay. Usually, however, they do begin within six months of trauma and continue for years, unless treated.

Latest figures show that over 3,000 people are currently on ventilators for coronavirus in the UK, with a cumulative 400,000 patients having been admitted to hospital since the pandemic began.