Early physical rehabilitation in intensive care patients with sepsis syndromes: a pilot randomised controlled trial

Intensive Care Med. 2015 May;41(5):865-74. doi: 10.1007/s00134-015-3763-8. Epub 2015 Apr 8.


Rationale: Survivors of sepsis syndromes have poor outcomes for physical and cognitive function. No investigations of early physical rehabilitation in the intensive care unit have specifically targeted patients with sepsis syndromes.

Objective: To determine whether early physical rehabilitation improves physical function and associated outcomes in patients with sepsis syndromes.

Methods: Fifty critically ill adults admitted to a general intensive care unit with sepsis syndromes were recruited into a prospective double-blinded randomised controlled trial investigating early physical rehabilitation.

Measurements: Primary outcomes of physical function (acute care index of function) and self-reported health-related quality of life were recorded at ICU discharge and 6 months post-hospital discharge, respectively. Secondary measures included inflammatory biomarkers; Interleukin-6, Interleukin-10 and tumour necrosis factor-α, blood lactate, fat-free muscle mass, exercise capacity, muscle strength and anxiety.

Main results: A significant increase in patient self-reported physical function (81.8 ± 22.2 vs. 60.0 ± 29.4), p = 0.04) and physical role (61.4 ± 43.8 vs. 17.1 ± 34.4, p = 0.005) for the SF-36 at 6 months was found in the exercise group. Physical function scores were not significantly different between groups. Muscle strength scores were (51.9 ± 10.5 vs. 47.3 ± 13.6, p = 0.24) with the standard care mean Medical Research Council Muscle Score (MRC) <48/60. The mean change of Interleukin-10 increased and was significantly higher in the exercise group (1.8 pg/ml, 180 % vs. 0.9 pg/ml, 90 %, p = 0.04). There was no significant difference between groups for lactate, Interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor-α, muscle strength, exercise capacity, fat-free mass or hospital anxiety.

Conclusion: Implementation of early physical rehabilitation can improve self-reported physical function and induce systemic anti-inflammatory effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / blood*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / blood*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / rehabilitation*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents