Outcomes and Management After COVID-19 Critical Illness

Chest. 2024 May;165(5):1149-1162. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2023.11.044. Epub 2023 Dec 15.


Topic importance: COVID-19 has caused > 7 million deaths worldwide since its onset in 2019. Although the severity of illness has varied throughout the pandemic, critical illness related to COVID-19 persists. Survivors of COVID-19 critical illness can be left with sequelae of both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and long-term effects of critical illness included within post-intensive care syndrome. Given the complexity and heterogeneity of COVID-19 critical illness, the biopsychosocial-ecological model can aid in evaluation and treatment of survivors, integrating interactions among physical, cognitive, and psychological domains, as well as social systems and environments.

Review findings: Prolonged illness after COVID-19 critical illness generally can be classified into effects on physical, cognitive, and psychosocial function, with much interaction among the various effects, and includes a wide range of symptoms such as ICU-acquired weakness, prolonged respiratory symptoms, cognitive changes, post-traumatic stress disorder post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Risk factors for COVID-19 critical illness developing are complex and include preexisting factors, disease course, and specifics of hospitalization in addition to psychological comorbidities and socioenvironmental factors. Recovery trajectories are not well defined, and management requires a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and individualized approach to care.

Summary: The onset of vaccinations, new therapeutics, and new strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus have decreased COVID-19 mortality; however, the number of survivors of COVID-19 critical illness remains high. A biopsychosocial-ecological approach is recommended to guide care of COVID-19 critical illness survivors.

Keywords: COVID-19; ICU survivorship; post-ICU.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / psychology
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness* / therapy
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Survivors / psychology

Supplementary concepts

  • postintensive care syndrome