Overuse of sedation in patients treated with mechanical ventilation can increase duration of ventilation, duration of delirium, and time to discharge. Although current principles of care include implementation of sedation protocols and/or daily interruptions in sedation to improve patients’ outcomes, these strategies remain underused. Historically, a barrier to use of protocols has been a perception that being awake and aware while intubated is intrinsically distressing and could cause psychological harm. Evidence of a link between lighter sedation and decreased signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder has partially dispelled these fears and even prompted the adoption of no-sedation (eg, analgosedation) strategies. Published studies on posttraumatic stress disorder and sedation are limited by small sample size, heterogeneous sedation practices, and inadequate follow-up. Despite limitations, current data suggest contemporary sedation practices to keep patients calm and comfortable but awake, as appropriate, are not associated with increased rates or severity of posttraumatic stress disorder.

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