Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS): an overview of the definition, etiology, risk factors, and possible counseling and treatment strategies

Expert Rev Neurother. 2021 Oct;21(10):1159-1177. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2021.1981289. Epub 2021 Sep 22.


Introduction: Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) has only recently been recognized as a new clinical entity in patients surviving their intensive care unit (ICU) stay due to critical illness. With increasing survival rates of ICU patients worldwide, there is a rising interest regarding post-ICU recovery.

Areas covered: First, based on the current literature a definition is provided of PICS, including the domains of impairments that comprise PICS along with the etiology and risk factors. Second, preventive measures and possible treatment strategies integrated in the follow-up care are described. Third, the authors will discuss the current SARS-Cov-2 pandemic and the increased risk of PICS in these post-ICU patients and their families.

Expert opinion: PICS is a relatively new entity, which not only encompasses various physical, cognitive, and psychological impairments but also impacts global health due to long-lasting detrimental socioeconomic burdens. Importantly, PICS also relates to caregivers of post-ICU patients. Strategies to reduce this burden will not only be needed within the ICU setting but will also have to take place in an interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach in primary care settings. Additionally, the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic has a high burden on post-ICU patients and their relatives.

Keywords: Covid-19; ICU survivors; PICS; PICS-F; Post-intensive care syndrome; SARS-Cov-2; family; psychosomatic impairments; risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Counseling
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • postintensive care syndrome