What are the barriers to mobilizing intensive care patients?

Cardiopulm Phys Ther J. 2012 Mar;23(1):26-9.


Purpose: Recently there has been increased interest in early mobilization of critically ill patients. Proposed benefits include improvements in respiratory function, muscle wasting, intensive care unit (ICU), and hospital length of stay. We studied the frequency of early mobilization in our intensive care unit in order to identify barriers to early mobilization.

Methods: A 4-week prospective audit of 106 patients admitted to a mixed medical-surgical tertiary ICU (mean age 60 ± 20 years, mean APACHE II score 14.7 ± 7.8) was performed. Outcome measures included number of patient days mobilized, type of mobilization, adverse events, and reasons for inability to mobilize.

Results: Patients were mobilized on 176 (54%) of 327 patient days. Adverse events occurred in 2 of 176 mobilization episodes (1.1%). In 71 (47%) of the 151 patient days where mobilization did not occur, potentially avoidable factors were identified, including vascular access devices sited in the femoral region, timing of procedures and agitation or reduced level of consciousness.

Conclusions: Critically ill patients can be safely mobilized for much of their ICU stay. Interventions that may allow more patients to mobilize include: changing the site of vascular catheters, careful scheduling of procedures, and improved sedation management.

Keywords: intensive care units; mobility; physical therapy.