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Wednesday, June 26 2019

Intensive Care Unit: Passing Through, For Life

The intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital is where patients in critical condition are treated. They are often fighting for their very lives – some may be intubated; some may even be in a coma. Through it all, a specialized team is there to support them and do everything possible to restore them to health and get them back home.

This spirit of dedication is shared by the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge, which just raised an amazing $5 million to support the CHU Sainte-Justine Centre of Excellence in Trauma Care. The impact of their commitment is tremendous: it has transformed the care provided to accident victims at Sainte-Justine by making it possible to acquire specialized equipment and undertake close to a dozen innovative research projects. 

Projects like the one spearheaded by Dr. Geneviève Du Pont-Thibodeau and Dr. Laurence Ducharme-Crevier, researchers and pediatric critical care physicians, focusing on the long-term follow-up of childhood accident victims

In the past few decades, the mortality rate of intensive care patients has dropped dramatically. But the after-effects of a stay in the ICU is still considerable. It can include everything from cognitive or physical impairment to behavioural issues. And families are forced to deal with the corresponding mental and emotional strain both during and after hospitalization.  

"About a third of families show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after their child has been discharged from the ICU. Some kids have problems sleeping or have panic attacks at the very sight of the hospital. Others are reluctant to go back to school or are plagued with concentration issues. Parents are often affected to a similar degree. They may find it difficult to return to where their child was treated or suffer from anxiety that prevents them from returning to work," explain Dr. Du Pont-Thibodeau.

Intensive Care Follow-Up Clinic: A First in Canada

In fall 2018, Drs. Du Pont-Thibodeau and Ducharme-Crevier launched the first clinic of its kind in Canada to follow up with patients after their time at the ICU. This step was previously missing from the patient treatment protocol. Once a child was discharged from critical care, the case would be handed off to a pediatrician or family doctor. 

This new approach is not only a source of comfort to families, but it also provides research opportunities to look into problems encountered by young accident victims after they are sent home.

"What we want is for all these kids to go back to leading a normal life with as few long-term consequences as possible," says Dr. Ducharme-Crevier.

The synergy of their research efforts is already bearing fruit. The clinic has seen close to 100 patients since September 2018. Both doctors have their sights set on the future, with a larger structure accommodating a full complement of specialists in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, neuropsychology and other fields to monitor physical and psychological needs.

Technology and Innovation in Trauma Care 

The Sainte-Justine trauma care research group, created and led by Dr. Guillaume Emeriaud, is staffed by more than 20 clinician investigators, thanks to the support of the Sainte-Justine Private Schools Youth Challenge. Some of the projects currently underway include the use of virtual reality to keep patients calm during routine procedures, the optimization of drug delivery to alleviate pain and medical follow-up to facilitate the patient journey during recovery. All of these are designed to improve the quality of care received by young trauma patients at Sainte-Justine. 

Dr. Emeriaud is particularly interested in the use of artificial intelligence in managing young patients in the ICU. He hopes to set up an electronic data platform that will automatically provide a real-time analysis of a patient’s condition to optimize their overall care. He dreams of the day where the technology is sophisticated enough to help medical teams detect and analyze even the smallest changes in a patient’s status in order to take timelier action and prevent subsequent problems. 

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Updated on 6/26/2019
Created on 6/26/2019
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