Feature

Health scare of the week: Hospital hallucinations

A Harvard Medical School study found that at least a third of patients over 70 suffer bouts of what doctors call “hospital delirium.”

Any hospital stay can be disconcerting, but for many patients, the experience is literally terrifying. A Harvard Medical School study found that at least a third of patients over 70 suffer bouts of what doctors call “hospital delirium,” involving hallucinations that might feature tiny creatures, naked fugitives, or zombies. “They’re having sheer terror, like their worst nightmare,” Dr. Manuel Pacheco of Mount Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts tells The New York Times. The episodes can be triggered by improper medication, surgery, infections, or disorientation. Although the symptoms are often treatable, the effects can be lasting. An Indiana University study found that elderly patients with delirium were hospitalized six days longer and were five times more likely to end up in a nursing home.

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