Objective: To assess survival, morbidity (physical and psychological), quality of life (QOL), and employment status of intensive care survivors up to 12 months after discharge from the intensive care unit (ICU).
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: University hospital adult ICU.
Patients: Between August 1, 1995, and July 31, 1996, 370 patients were admitted. Of these patients, 29% died in the ICU. Three months after discharge from the ICU, 227 patients were alive, and 143 agreed to participate. Cumulative mortality was calculated using the original complete cohort.
Measurements and main results: Demographic data, severity of acute illness (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation [APACHE] II), admitting specialty, primary diagnosis, and length of stay were recorded. Physical and ICU-related psychological morbidity (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale score) were recorded. Health-related QOL was assessed using the Short-Form 36. All the questionnaires were completed in the clinic at 3 months. Assessment of physical morbidity and employment status at 6 and 12 months were conducted by telephone. The cumulative mortality was 39% at 3 months, 41% at 6 months, and 43% at 12 months. Deaths after 3 months occurred in the group who refused follow-up. The median age for the follow-up group was 51 yrs; the gender split was 68 women and 75 men; the mean admission APACHE II score was 18.79 (SD 6.15); and the median length of ICU stay was 3.8 days. At 3 months, approximately 80% of all patients interviewed were satisfied with their QOL. Older men (>65 yrs) and younger women (<65 yrs) demonstrated significantly better health with respect to some subdomains of the Short-Form 36 compared with their counterparts. The prevalence of psychological distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale score, > or =8) was low: 11.9% had heightened anxiety, and 9.8% were depressed. There were high levels of fatigue, poor concentration, and sleep disturbance; the latter was more marked in women (p = .022). Improvement in all three symptoms occurred during the next 9 months. Significantly more women reported loss of hair (p < .0001). Men were slower to return to employment; 75% of women had returned by 6 months compared with only 65% of men at 1 yr.
Conclusion: Assessment of outcome after ICU stay must include QOL measurements. Three months after discharge, there is a low incidence of ICU-related psychological or psychiatric illness and the majority of patients are satisfied. Differences in the incidence and nature of morbidity exist between the genders.