Persistent inflammation and recovery after intensive care: A systematic review

J Crit Care. 2016 Jun;33:192-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2016.01.011. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


Purpose: Physical weakness is common after critical illness; however, it is not clear how best to treat it. Inflammation characterizes critical illness, is associated with loss of muscle mass during critical illness, and potentially modifies post-intensive care unit (ICU) recovery. We sought to identify published reports on the prevalence of systemic inflammation after critical illness and its association with physical recovery.

Methods: This is a systematic review of the literature from MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CPCI-SSH, and CPCI-S from January 1982 to December 2011.

Results: From 7433 references, 207 full-text articles were reviewed, 57 were eligible, and 22 were included. Inflammation was present in most patients at ICU discharge according to C-reactive protein concentration (range, 70%-100%), procalcitonin (range, 89%-100%), tumor necrosis factor α (100%), and systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria (range, 92%-95%). Fewer patients had elevated myeloperoxidase concentrations (range, 0%-56%). At hospital discharge, 9 (90%) of 10 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients had elevated C-reactive protein. No studies tested the association between inflammation and physical recovery.

Conclusions: Inflammation is present in most patients at ICU discharge, but little is known or has been investigated about persistent inflammation after this time point. No studies have explored the relationship between persistent inflammation and physical recovery. Further research is proposed.

Keywords: Critical illness; Inflammation; Intensive care; Quality of life; Recovery; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / rehabilitation
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / rehabilitation*