Management of Autism in the Adult Intensive Care Unit


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Abstract

Autism comprises a growing segment of the population and can be a management challenge in the intensive care unit (ICU). We present the case of a 22-year-old male with severe autism and intellectual disorder who developed respiratory failure and required a prolonged ICU course. This patient exhibited severe distress, aggression, and self-injurious behavior. Management challenges included sedation, weaning from sedation, and liberation from mechanical ventilation. Success was achieved with a multispecialty team and by tailoring the environment and interactions to the patient's known preferences. The use of dexmedetomidine to wean high-dose benzodiazepines and opiates also permitted successful liberation from mechanical ventilation.

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