Bench-to-bedside review: mobilizing patients in the intensive care unit--from pathophysiology to clinical trials

Crit Care. 2009;13(4):216. doi: 10.1186/cc7885. Epub 2009 Jul 13.


As the mortality from critical illness has improved in recent years, there has been increasing focus on patient outcomes after hospital discharge. Neuromuscular weakness acquired in the intensive care unit (ICU) is common, persistent, and often severe. Immobility due to prolonged bed rest in the ICU may play an important role in the development of ICU-acquired weakness. Studies in other patient populations have demonstrated that moderate exercise is beneficial in altering the inflammatory milieu associated with immobility, and in improving muscle strength and physical function. Recent studies have demonstrated that early mobility in the ICU is safe and feasible, with a potential reduction in short-term physical impairment. However, early mobility requires a significant change in ICU practice, with reductions in heavy sedation and bed rest. Further research is required to determine whether early mobility in the ICU can improve patients' short-term and long-term outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Atrophy / prevention & control
  • Atrophy / therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Early Ambulation*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Muscle Weakness / therapy
  • Organizational Culture
  • Physical Therapy Specialty
  • Risk Factors