Reducing sensory input in critically ill patients: are eyemasks a blind spot?
© BioMed Central Ltd 2012
Published: 16 July 2012
We read with interest the article by Van Rompaey and colleagues  reporting that earplugs may be useful in the prevention of delirium in non-ventilated ICU patients. Unfortunately, they did not report any potentially negative effects of earplugs related to sensory deprivation - for example, restlessness, discomfort, or anxiety.
N = 18
Age (years ± SD)
71 ± 7
APACHE-II score ± SD
26 ± 6
ICU LOS (days, median (IQR))
8 (5 to 17)
Eleven patients (61%) were willing to wear a nightmask on average on 28% (median 4 nights, range 1 to 5) of nights on the ICU. In these patients self-perceived quality of sleep, using a visual analog scale (VAS), improved from 6.6 (5.9 to 8.2) to 7.5 (7.0 to 8.0) (P = 0.041) when the mask was worn. In 72% of cases, the mask was refused or taken off prematurely due to restlessness (30%), discomfort (20%), or anxiety (11%).
While eyemasks might improve sleep in selected patients, it also may lead to feelings of discomfort and anxiety in mechanically ventilated ICU patients and therefore its standardized use should be used with caution and only on a voluntary basis in this specific group.
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