ICU admissions are ever increasing across the United States. Following critical illness, physical functioning (PF) may be impaired for up to 5 years. We performed a systematic review of randomized controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of interventions targeting PF among ICU survivors. The objective of this study was to identify effective interventions that improve long-term PF in ICU survivors.
MEDLINE, Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Physiotherapy Evidence-Based Database (PEDro) were searched between 1990 and 2012. Two reviewers independently evaluated studies for eligibility, critically appraised the included studies, and extracted data into standardized evidence tables.
Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Interventions included exercise/physical therapy (PT), parenteral nutrition, nurse-led follow-up, spontaneous awakening trials, absence of sedation during mechanical ventilation, and early tracheotomy. Nine studies failed to demonstrate efficacy on PF of the ICU survivors. However, early physical exercise and PT-based interventions had a positive effect on long-term PF.
The only effective intervention to improve long-term PF in critically ill patients is exercise/PT; its benefit may be greater if started earlier. Further research in this area comparing different interventions and timing is needed.