Early physical medicine and rehabilitation for patients with acute respiratory failure: a quality improvement project

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Apr;91(4):536-42. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2010.01.002.


Objectives: To (1) reduce deep sedation and delirium to permit mobilization, (2) increase the frequency of rehabilitation consultations and treatments to improve patients' functional mobility, and (3) evaluate effects on length of stay.

Design: Seven-month prospective before/after quality improvement project.

Setting: Sixteen-bed medical intensive care unit (MICU) in academic hospital.

Participants: 57 patients mechanically ventilated 4 days or longer.

Intervention: A multidisciplinary team focused on reducing heavy sedation and increasing MICU staffing to include full-time physical and occupational therapists with new consultation guidelines.

Main outcome measures: Sedation and delirium status, rehabilitation treatments, functional mobility.

Results: Compared with before the quality improvement project, benzodiazepine use decreased markedly (proportion of MICU days that patients received benzodiazepines [50% vs 25%, P=.002]), with lower median daily sedative doses (47 vs 15 mg midazolam equivalents [P=.09] and 71 vs 24 mg morphine equivalents [P=.01]). Patients had improved sedation and delirium status (MICU days alert [30% vs 67%, P<.001] and not delirious [21% vs 53%, P=.003]). There were a greater median number of rehabilitation treatments per patient (1 vs 7, P<.001) with a higher level of functional mobility (treatments involving sitting or greater mobility, 56% vs 78%, P=.03). Hospital administrative data demonstrated that across all MICU patients, there was a decrease in intensive care unit and hospital length of stay by 2.1 (95% confidence interval: 0.4-3.8) and 3.1 (0.3-5.9) days, respectively, and a 20% increase in MICU admissions compared with the same period in the prior year.

Conclusions: Using a quality improvement process, intensive care unit delirium, physical rehabilitation, and functional mobility were markedly improved and associated with decreased length of stay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • Deep Sedation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delirium / chemically induced
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Therapy / organization & administration
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / rehabilitation
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*


  • Benzodiazepines