Schizophrenia is often equated to mental illness and patients with schizophrenia are often treated as mentally ill. This is probably why patients who suffer from schizophrenia are more likely to incur injuries during hospitalization than non-schizophrenic patients, according to a recent study by researchers at Bloomberg Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. These injuries can occur during hospital admissions due to medical conditions that may not be related to schizophrenia itself include decubitus ulcers (bedsores) and serious complications such as sepsis, infection and postoperative respiratory failure.
The researchers looked at records of hospital discharges in 3,605 U.S. hospitals from 2002 to 2007 using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. The study looked at 269,387 hospitalizations of patients with schizophrenia and more than 37 million hospitalizations of patients without schizophrenia.
The almost double than usual rate of postoperative respiratory failure is especially a cause for concern as this complication can be life-threatening. In the study, the researchers found 24.2 incidences of postoperative respiratory failure per 1,000 hospitalizations among schizophrenia patients vs 9.2 incidences for non-schizophrenic hospital patients. 36.6 vs. 27.7 incidences of bedsores per 1,000 hospitalizations were recorded for patients with vs. without schizophrenia.
So why are people with schizophrenia vulnerable to such injuries? The study authors believe that “the combination of medical illness, medications that patients with schizophrenia already take and communication gaps put them at risk for the elevated patient safety events that we observed.
Some experts are not surprised. According to Chris Koyanagi, policy director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington.
“It does not surprise us that this study found various ways in which people with schizophrenia were not receiving optimum health care. We hear anecdotal reports from individuals that their primary care providers and medical specialists do not always listen to their physical complaints seriously, but write them off as part of their mental illness.”
The results of the study highlight the need for better health care delivery not only to patients with schizophrenia but others suffering from some form of mental disorders. Schizophrenia affects about 1.1% American adults.