Early mobilization in the critical care unit: A review of adult and pediatric literature

J Crit Care. 2015 Aug;30(4):664-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2015.03.032. Epub 2015 Apr 8.


Early mobilization of critically ill patients is beneficial, suggesting that it should be incorporated into daily clinical practice. Early passive, active, and combined progressive mobilizations can be safely initiated in intensive care units (ICUs). Adult patients receiving early mobilization have fewer ventilator-dependent days, shorter ICU and hospital stays, and better functional outcomes. Pediatric ICU data are limited, but recent studies also suggest that early mobilization is achievable without increasing patient risk. In this review, we provide a current and comprehensive appraisal of ICU mobilization techniques in both adult and pediatric critically ill patients. Contraindications and perceived barriers to early mobilization, including cost and health care provider views, are identified. Methods of overcoming barriers to early mobilization and enhancing sustainability of mobilization programs are discussed. Optimization of patient outcomes will require further studies on mobilization timing and intensity, particularly within specific ICU populations.

Keywords: Adult; Exercise; Intensive care unit; Intervention; Mobility; Pediatric.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness / rehabilitation*
  • Early Ambulation / methods*
  • Early Medical Intervention
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Safety