Health Care

Coronavirus patients experiencing ‘terrifying’ hospital delirium, reports say

Dr. Makary: Two-thirds of COVID-19 patients in ICU have deliriumVideo

Dr. Makary: Two-thirds of COVID-19 patients in ICU have delirium

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marty Makary on how COVID-19 infects cells, link to delirium.

Coronavirus patients are battling “hospital delirium” through “nightmarish visions,” delusions and “paranoid imaginings,” according to multiple reports.

Delirium entails a “serious disturbance in mental abilities that results in confused thinking and reduced awareness of the environment,” according to the Mayo Clinic webpage. The onset is said to be rapid, within hours or several days.


Delirium is usually more common in the elderly, sometimes occurring among cognitively impaired individuals with dementia.

In an interview with Fox News’ Trace Gallagher, Johns Hopkins University physician and professor of public health Dr. Marty Makary said the delirium is fairly common.

“It is common in the ICU (intensive care unit.),” said Makary, a Fox News medical contributor. “When people are in the ICU they’re hearing beeps and alarms and people are coming in to stick you with needles, you lose sense of reality, you lose sense of day and night and people get delirious.”

Makary said a study will come out Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine which says two-thirds of COVID-19 patients — including young people — in the ICU have delirium, many times involving paranoia.

“We know that delirium is more likely the longer you stay in an ICU, so people who are there naturally two or three weeks and have a worse outcome for that reason are more likely to have delirium,” Makary added.

Fox News has reached out to several institutions with a request for comment on the matter, including the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins.

The British Geriatrics Society, for instance, noted earlier in the pandemic that seniors experience delirium along with a range of other atypical symptoms like anosmia (loss of smell), dizziness, falls, nausea, vomiting, headaches and chest pain.


The New York Times recently reported the delirium has since extended to younger age groups with no previous history of cognitive issues; patients were in their 60s, 50s and there was even one 31-year-old woman recounted in the report.

The many reasons for covid-induced delirium may include long bouts on ventilators, poor sleep and heavy sedatives, according to the report. Patients are also rooted in hospital beds and ill afforded quality social interaction.

COVID-19 patients suffer from low blood oxygen, which may affect the brain, the report noted. Patients were reportedly plagued by “nightmarish visions,” delusions and “paranoid imaginings.” The 31-year-old patient, Kim Victory, was said to be so agitated by the visions that she pulled out her ventilator breathing tube one night.

There are two types of delirium: hyperactive delirium and hypoactive delirium. While the former involves agitation, sudden mood changes and hallucinations, the latter is said to entail sluggishness and a dazed state.


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