Skin lesions after intensive care procedures: results of a prospective study

J Crit Care. 2008 Dec;23(4):525-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 May 14.


Purpose: To define the skin lesions produced by procedures used in the intensive care unit (ICU) and to examine patients 12 months after discharge from the ICU.

Material and methods: This was a prospective clinical study in the 14-bed multidisciplinary ICU of a university hospital. Iatrogenic skin lesions (ISL) were examined in 316 patients after ICU discharge.

Results: A total of 189 patients were interviewed 12 months after ICU discharge. More than 85% of the patients had ISL after being discharged from the ICU. The patients with the highest Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score and longest average stay presented the highest number of ISLs. A total of 93 patients (49%) reported some skin lesions after 12 months. All patients who had undergone surgical tracheostomy reported the presence of a scar, but 4 of 24 patients who had undergone percutaneous tracheostomy reported no tracheostomy scar. Only 22% of all patients reported scars caused by vascular catheter access. About half (54.5%) of the patients reported secondary lesions caused by chest draining, and these were predominantly caused by the large-bore tube drainage. All patients reported the presence of a laparatomy scar.

Conclusions: Most patients had identified skin lesions resulting from ICU procedures. Half of all patients were aware of their lesions and reported them at 12 months. Future research is needed to understand whether these lesions cause problems to survivor's quality of life and whether the lesions lead to increased health care utilization.

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Cicatrix / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin / injuries*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / adverse effects