Courtesy Sapna Kudchadkar, M.D.
Courtesy Sapna Kudchadkar, M.D.

According to a newly published study from JHU researchers, many children who remain sedated in hospitals are better off moving around if they want to become stronger and healthier.

The research, published yesterday in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, echoes what experts already discovered about adults: Those who stay drugged up and immobile in intensive care units (ICUs) are more likely to get physically weaker.

Lead study author Sapna Kudchadkar said in a release that doctors have “long underestimated what children in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) can safely do.”

It seems sensible to sedate sick young patients in ICUs so that they can rest and are not awake and suffering. However, doing so for too long and repeatedly bringing them in and out of consciousness can make them weaker and give them PTSD, Kudchadkar said.

Now, the team behind the study did not make child patients do anything too physical – merely activities like sitting up, standing and playing with toys. In three months of studying patients as young as one day old and as old as 17, they found once-sedated children were more likely to walk after several days and partake in physical therapy if they were mobile at some point. Four children who were breathing through tubes and had never even walked before trying the mobility program were even able to take their first steps afterward.

Other medical research has questioned whether prolonged sedation of kids in hospitals works or has found risks associated with it for any patient.

Kudchadkar noted other doctors may need to see her team’s program at work in order to escape the conventional reliance on sedatives for child patients.

Read more about Hopkins’ pediatric care mobility program here.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...