An insight on how physiotherapists can help people recover from intensive care stays.

  • 11 June 2020
  • Physio Form


Following a lengthy stay on an intensive care unit, it's not uncommon for patients to suffer Intensive care unit-acquired weakness (ICUAW). The symptoms of ICUAW could include:

  • Muscular weakness 
  • Respiratory weakness
  • Loss of cardiovascular fitness 
  • Joint stiffness
  • Chronic pain 
  • Loss of co-ordination 
  • Mental health deterioration 
  • Medical apparatus dependency

In turn, this can lead to re-hospitalisation due to the self perpetuating cycle of deterioration. Early rehabilitation promotes physical activity which has a wealth of health benefits, negating most of the issues listed above. Despite this, patients are often discharged from hospital will little consideration of physiotherapy follow up. 


Prior to the implementation of this study, the management of ICUAW remain unclear. The study set out to investigate the effect of early rehabilitation interventions led by Physiotherapists compared to routine aftercare following a period of treatment on intensive care. The study was conducted at the end of 2019 and published on PhysioJournal in May 2020. 


The retrospective study looked at 841 cases (419 with intervention & 422 without). They concluded that early intervention led to a 95% reduction in the likelihood of acquiring (ICUAW). Their findings support Physiotherapy interventions immediately after intensive care treatment. 

Clinical Implications: 

The researchers suggest that these results could also be generalised to any period of hospitalisation, further highlighting the importance of Physiotherapy as a health profession. With lengthy physiotherapy waiting lists, you or your friends and family could be missing out on crucial interventions following hospital admission.


Share this post

Leave a comment


Email address

This is never shown to the public.