Interventions for preventing critical illness polyneuropathy and critical illness myopathy

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 30;2014(1):CD006832. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006832.pub3.


Background: Critical illness polyneuropathy or myopathy (CIP/CIM) is a frequent complication in the intensive care unit (ICU) and is associated with prolonged mechanical ventilation, longer ICU stay and increased mortality. This is an interim update of a review first published in 2009 (Hermans 2009). It has been updated to October 2011, with further potentially eligible studies from a December 2013 search characterised as awaiting assessment.

Objectives: To systematically review the evidence from RCTs concerning the ability of any intervention to reduce the incidence of CIP or CIM in critically ill individuals.

Search methods: On 4 October 2011, we searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE. We checked the bibliographies of identified trials and contacted trial authors and experts in the field. We carried out an additional search of these databases on 6 December 2013 to identify recent studies.

Selection criteria: All randomised controlled trials (RCTs), examining the effect of any intervention on the incidence of CIP/CIM in people admitted to adult medical or surgical ICUs. The primary outcome was the incidence of CIP/CIM in ICU, based on electrophysiological or clinical examination. Secondary outcomes included duration of mechanical ventilation, duration of ICU stay, death at 30 and 180 days after ICU admission and serious adverse events from the treatment regimens.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently extracted the data and assessed the risk of bias in included studies.

Main results: We identified five trials that met our inclusion criteria. Two trials compared intensive insulin therapy (IIT) to conventional insulin therapy (CIT). IIT significantly reduced CIP/CIM in the screened (n = 825; risk ratio (RR) 0.65, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.55 to 0.77) and total (n = 2748; RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.82) population randomised. IIT reduced duration of mechanical ventilation, ICU stay and 180-day mortality, but not 30-day mortality compared with CIT. Hypoglycaemia increased with IIT but did not cause early deaths.One trial compared corticosteroids with placebo (n = 180). The trial found no effect of treatment on CIP/CIM (RR 1.27, 95% CI 0.77 to 2.08), 180-day mortality, new infections, glycaemia at day seven, or episodes of pneumonia, but did show a reduction of new shock events.In the fourth trial, early physical therapy reduced CIP/CIM in 82/104 evaluable participants in ICU (RR 0.62. 95% CI 0.39 to 0.96). Statistical significance was lost when we performed a full intention-to-treat analysis (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.60 to 1.08). Duration of mechanical ventilation but not ICU stay was significantly shorter in the intervention group. Hospital mortality was not affected but 30- and 180-day mortality results were not available. No adverse effects were noticed.The last trial found a reduced incidence of CIP/CIM in 52 evaluable participants out of a total of 140 who were randomised to electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) versus no stimulation (RR 0.32, 95% CI 0.10 to 1.01). These data were prone to bias due to imbalances between treatment groups in this subgroup of participants. After we imputed missing data and performed an intention-to-treat analysis, there was still no significant effect (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.15). The investigators found no effect on duration of mechanical ventilation and noted no difference in ICU mortality, but did not report 30- and 180-day mortality.We updated the searches in December 2013 and identified nine potentially eligible studies that will be assessed for inclusion in the next update of the review.

Authors' conclusions: There is moderate quality evidence from two large trials that intensive insulin therapy reduces CIP/CIM, and high quality evidence that it reduces duration of mechanical ventilation, ICU stay and 180-day mortality, at the expense of hypoglycaemia. Consequences and prevention of hypoglycaemia need further study. There is moderate quality evidence which suggests no effect of corticosteroids on CIP/CIM and high quality evidence that steroids do not affect secondary outcomes, except for fewer new shock episodes. Moderate quality evidence suggests a potential benefit of early rehabilitation on CIP/CIM which is accompanied by a shorter duration of mechanical ventilation but without an effect on ICU stay. Very low quality evidence suggests no effect of EMS, although data are prone to bias. Strict diagnostic criteria for CIP/CIM are urgently needed for research purposes. Large RCTs need to be conducted to further explore the role of early rehabilitation and EMS and to develop new preventive strategies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Muscular Diseases / mortality
  • Muscular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Polyneuropathies / mortality
  • Polyneuropathies / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Human Growth Hormone