Children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) can experience significant morbidity as a consequence of mechanical ventilation and sedative medications. This morbidity could potentially be decreased with the implementation of activities to promote early mobilization during critical illness. The objective of this systematic review is to summarize the current evidence regarding rehabilitation therapies in the PICU and to highlight the knowledge gaps and avenues for future research on early mobilization in the PICU. Using a combination of controlled vocabulary and key word terms PubMed, CINAHL, and EMBASE databases were searched; no limiters were imposed on search strategies. Two reviewers abstracted data and assessed quality independently. From the 1928 articles identified in the search 168 abstracts were identified for full text review. Fifty-nine articles were chosen for data extraction and five were identified for inclusion in review. A sixth article was identified through expert clinician query. The studies were categorized into three groups based on the outcomes discussed: safety and feasibility, functional outcomes, and length of stay. A synthesis of the studies indicates that early rehabilitation in the PICU is safe and feasible with potential short and long-term benefits. Institutional, provider and patient-related barriers to initiation of early rehabilitation in the PICU are identified. Recommendations for future investigation include early rehabilitation protocols for children hospitalized in the PICU and identification of outcome measures.
Keywords: Children; critical care; early mobilization; intensive care; pediatric; rehabilitation.