Does enhanced physical rehabilitation following intensive care unit discharge improve outcomes in patients who received mechanical ventilation? A systematic review and meta-analysis

BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 9;9(6):e026075. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026075.


Objective: We aimed to determine whether enhanced physical rehabilitation following intensive care unit (ICU) discharge improves activities-of-daily-living function, quality of life (QOL) and mortality among patients who received mechanical ventilation in the ICU.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL, PEDro and WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform searched through January 2019.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: We included randomised controlled trials assessing the effect of post-ICU rehabilitation designed to either commence earlier and/or be more intensive than the protocol employed in the control group. Only adults who received mechanical ventilation for >24 hours were included.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Standard mean differences (SMDs) with 95% CIs were calculated for QOL, and pooled risk ratios (RRs) with 95% CIs are provided for mortality. We assessed heterogeneity based on I² and the certainty of evidence based on the GRADE approach.

Results: Ten trials (enrolling 1110 patients) compared physical rehabilitation with usual care or no intervention after ICU discharge. Regarding QOL, the SMD (95% CI) between the intervention and control groups for the physical and mental component summary scores was 0.06 (-0.12 to 0.24) and -0.04 (-0.20 to 0.11), respectively. Rehabilitation did not significantly decrease long-term mortality (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.66). The analysed trials did not report activities-of-daily-living data. The certainty of the evidence for QOL and mortality was moderate.

Conclusions: Enhanced physical rehabilitation following ICU discharge may make little or no difference to QOL or mortality among patients who received mechanical ventilation in the ICU. Given the wide CIs, further studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of intensive post-ICU rehabilitation in selected populations.

Prospero registration number: CRD42017080532.

Keywords: critical illness; exercise; mortality; post-intensive care syndrome; quality of life; rehabilitation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Illness / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Patient Discharge
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*