Could Physical Therapy Interventions Be Adopted in the Management of Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19? A Scoping Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 8;18(4):1627. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041627.


As part of COVID-19 consequences, it has been estimated that 5% of patients affected by this disease will require admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), and physical therapy techniques have been implemented in patients with other conditions admitted to ICU. The aim of the present study is to summarize all the available information about the implementation of physical therapy management in critically ill patients. From three clinical guidelines already published, we performed a search in PubMed, Scopus, ScienceDirect, and CINAHL, including systematic reviews, clinical guidelines, and randomized controlled trials, among others. Data extraction was performed independently by two reviewers. Quality assessment was developed through the AMSTAR-2 tool and PEDro Scale. A narrative synthesis was performed and 29 studies were included. The information extracted has been classified into four folders: ICU environment in COVID-19 (security aspects and management of the patient), respiratory physiotherapy (general indications and contraindications, spontaneously breathing and mechanically ventilated patient approaches), positional treatment, and exercise therapy (safety aspects and progression). The implementation of physiotherapy in patients affected with COVID-19 admitted to the ICU is a necessary strategy that prevents complications and contributes to the stabilization of patients in critical periods, facilitating their recovery.

Keywords: coronavirus; critical care rehabilitation; intensive care units; lung recruitment; physical therapy modalities; physiotherapy; severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Critical Illness / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • SARS-CoV-2