Exercise rehabilitation following hospital discharge in survivors of critical illness: an integrative review

Crit Care. 2012 Jun 20;16(3):226. doi: 10.1186/CC11219.


Although clinical trials have shown benefit from early rehabilitation within the ICU, rehabilitation of patients following critical illness is increasingly acknowledged as an area of clinical importance. However, despite recommendations from published guidelines for rehabilitation to continue following hospital discharge, there is limited evidence to underpin practice during this intermediate stage of recovery. Those patients with ICU-acquired weakness on discharge from the ICU are most likely to benefit from ongoing rehabilitation. Despite this, screening based on strength alone may fail to account for the associated level of physical functioning, which may not correlate with muscle strength, nor address non-physical complications of critical illness. The aim of this review was to consider which patients are likely to require rehabilitation following critical illness and to perform an integrative review of the available evidence of content and nature of exercise rehabilitation programmes for survivors of critical illness following hospital discharge. Literature databases and clinical trials registries were searched using appropriate terms and groups of terms. Inclusion criteria specified the reporting of rehabilitation programmes for patients following critical illness post-hospital discharge. Ten items, including data from published studies and protocols from trial registries, were included. Because of the variability in study methodology and inadequate level of detail of reported exercise prescription, at present there can be no clear recommendations for clinical practice from this review. As this area of clinical practice remains in its relative infancy, further evidence is required both to identify which patients are most likely to benefit and to determine the optimum content and format of exercise rehabilitation programmes for patients following critical illness post-hospital discharge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle Weakness / rehabilitation
  • Patient Discharge
  • Quality of Life
  • Survivors
  • Time Factors