Adverse effects of isolation in hospitalised patients: a systematic review

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Oct;76(2):97-102. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2010.04.027.


The use of transmission precautions such as contact isolation in patients known to be colonised or infected with multidrug-resistant organisms is recommended in healthcare institutions. Although essential for infection control, contact isolation has recently been associated with adverse effects in patients. We undertook a systematic review to determine whether contact isolation leads to psychological or physical problems for patients. Studies were included if (1) hospitalised patients were placed under isolation precautions for an underlying medical indication, and (2) any adverse events related to the isolation were evaluated. We found 16 studies that reported data regarding the impact of isolation on patient mental well-being, patient satisfaction, patient safety or time spent by healthcare workers in direct patient care. The majority showed a negative impact on patient mental well-being and behaviour, including higher scores for depression, anxiety and anger among isolated patients. A few studies also found that healthcare workers spent less time with patients in isolation. Patient satisfaction was adversely affected by isolation if patients were kept uninformed of their healthcare. Patient safety was also negatively affected, leading to an eight-fold increase in adverse events related to supportive care failures. We found that contact isolation may negatively impact several dimensions of patient care. Well-validated tools are necessary to investigate these results further. Large studies examining a number of safety indicators to assess the adverse effects of isolation are needed. Patient education may be an important step to mitigate the adverse psychological effects of isolation and is recommended.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anger
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Patient Isolation / psychology*