Legacy of intensive care unit-acquired weakness

Crit Care Med. 2009 Oct;37(10 Suppl):S457-61. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181b6f35c.


Loss of muscle mass, nerve dysfunction, and resultant weakness and functional disability represent important and lasting morbidities of an episode of critical illness. As investigators increasingly incorporate long-term functional, neuropsychological, and quality-of-life outcomes into their studies, more data are accruing that support the existence of often devastating and irreversible sequelae of severe illness and treatment in an intensive care unit. This review highlights early quality-of-life literature that supports significant physical dysfunction after intensive care unit treatment and more recent longitudinal studies up to 5 yrs after intensive care unit discharge, which clearly implicate nerve and muscle dysfunction as contributors to this reported disability. Additional follow-up work is needed to understand the pathophysiology of this injury, the spectrum of physical disability, and its associated risk factors. These data are crucial to inform risk-stratification and future rehabilitation interventions, both during the intensive care unit admission and after hospital discharge as patients reintegrate within their community and workplace.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Muscle Weakness / rehabilitation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology
  • Muscular Atrophy / rehabilitation
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / etiology*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Polyneuropathies / etiology
  • Polyneuropathies / rehabilitation
  • Quality of Life