Critical illness polyneuropathy and myopathy: a major cause of muscle weakness and paralysis

Lancet Neurol. 2011 Oct;10(10):931-41. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70178-8.


Critical illness polyneuropathy (CIP) and myopathy (CIM) are complications of critical illness that present with muscle weakness and failure to wean from the ventilator. In addition to prolonging mechanical ventilation and hospitalisation, CIP and CIM increase hospital mortality in patients who are critically ill and cause chronic disability in survivors of critical illness. Structural changes associated with CIP and CIM include axonal nerve degeneration, muscle myosin loss, and muscle necrosis. Functional changes can cause electrical inexcitability of nerves and muscles with reversible muscle weakness. Microvascular changes and cytopathic hypoxia might disrupt energy supply and use. An acquired sodium channelopathy causing reduced muscle membrane and nerve excitability is a possible unifying mechanism underlying CIP and CIM. The diagnosis of CIP, CIM, or combined CIP and CIM relies on clinical, electrophysiological, and muscle biopsy investigations. Control of hyperglycaemia might reduce the severity of these complications of critical illness, and early rehabilitation in the intensive care unit might improve the functional recovery and independence of patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology*
  • Muscular Diseases / complications*
  • Muscular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Muscular Diseases / mortality
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy
  • Paralysis / etiology*
  • Polyneuropathies / complications*
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis
  • Polyneuropathies / mortality
  • Polyneuropathies / therapy