Early mobilization of trauma patients admitted to intensive care units: A systematic review and meta-analyses

Injury. 2019 Nov;50(11):1809-1815. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2019.09.007. Epub 2019 Sep 9.


Objective: To determine the effect of early mobilization (EM) in trauma patients admitted to the ICU. Outcomes of interest included mortality, hospital and ICU length of stay (LOS), and duration of mechanical ventilation.

Methods: We performed a systematic review of 4 electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane Library) and the grey literature. Eligible study designs included randomized control trials, prospective cohorts, or retrospective cohorts. Studies must have compared EM to usual care (i.e., delayed or no mobilization) in trauma patients admitted to ICU. Overall, there were 2982 articles screened and 9 were included in the analysis. Two authors independently performed data extraction using a standardized form. Pertinent study design and population characteristics were recorded, as were prespecified outcome measures. Meta-analyses were performed using random effects models. Study quality was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Results: Study cohorts ranged from 15 to 1132 patients (median 63) and varied in their inclusion criteria. Most studies utilized a progressive mobility protocol as their intervention. Mortality was reported in 5 studies, of which 3 observed a lower rate with EM; however, meta-analysis showed no difference in mortality between patients mobilized early and those receiving usual care. Eight studies reported on LOS (in-hospital and ICU); although all 8 studies found EM reduced LOS, the difference in LOS was not significant on meta-analysis. Finally, 3 studies reported on ventilator days, all of which observed a reduction in the EM group. On meta-analysis, duration of mechanical ventilation was significantly lower with EM (mean difference -1.18 days, 95% CI, -2.17 - -0.19).

Conclusions: Few studies have investigated the effects of EM in trauma ICU patients. The available evidence suggests that patients who receive EM require fewer days of mechanical ventilation, but have similar mortality and LOS compared to those receiving usual care.

Keywords: Early ambulation; Intensive care units; Occupational therapy; Physical therapy modalities; Rehabilitation; Wounds and injuries.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness / mortality
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Early Ambulation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors