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Schizophrenics at Greater Risk for Injury in Hospital

While in a general medical hospital for nonpsychiatric conditions, people with schizophrenia are more prone to complications, according to a recent study.

“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,” said Dr. Elizabeth Khaykin from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who led the research team.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness in which patients experience symptoms such as delusions, (mistaken beliefs) hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.  Up to 1 percent of the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Recent research has shown that individuals with schizophrenia are also at greater risk for a number of medical problems, often requiring nonpsychiatric hospital stays.  Admission to a hospital is not without risk, as over the last several decades, awareness of iatrogenic complications (injury or illness caused by medical or hospital treatment) has increased.

To determine the rate of medical injury in patients with schizophrenia, Khaykin examined 3,605 hospital discharge records from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. The Nationwide Inpatient Sample is a large database that includes a wide range of data from general medical hospital stays.  Khaykin and her colleagues used data from 2002-2007 that covered 269,387 hospitalizations of people with schizophrenia and 37,092,651 hospitalizations of people without schizophrenia.

The researchers found that hospital patients who also had schizophrenia were more likely to have other complications such as pressure sores, infections, blood infections (sepsis), respiratory failure or pneumonia after surgery, and deep venous thomboses or pulmonary embolism (blood clots in veins or lungs).

These results are an important step in working to improve the quality of care for patients with schizophrenia.  Patients with schizophrenia are a vulnerable population, often with difficulty in communication, and perhaps may be more likely to have complaints dismissed by providers.  Future research may help to further characterize the risk factors for these patients and help design specific intervention to improve their safety and quality of care.

“These findings confirm that medical and surgical hospitalizations are an at-risk time for this group, and a national problem,” said Khaykin.

Dr. Khaykin’s results are published in the July/August issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

Source: General Hospital Psychiatry

Schizophrenics at Greater Risk for Injury in Hospital

Jessica Ward Jones, MD, MPH

APA Reference
Jones, J. (2019). Schizophrenics at Greater Risk for Injury in Hospital. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Mar 2019 (Originally: 26 Jul 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Mar 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.