Hospitals battle ICU complications, sepsis with rehab, physical therapy

Post-intensive care syndrome among ICU patients is becoming more common with as many as 80 percent of ICU survivors suffering some sort of cognitive or brain dysfunction, a negative effect of the very medication or technology that saved their lives, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In response, many hospitals are giving patients breaks from constant ventilation and over-sedation by watching them closely for indicators of delirium, getting the patients up and walking around as soon as possible and focusing on in-ICU rehabilitation, the Journal writes.

Physical therapy is just as crucial to ICU patients as it is to heart attack and stroke survivors, Theodore Iwashyna, a critical-care physician and researcher at the University of Michigan Health System, told the Journal. "We can do better at figuring out who we can help, so functional and cognitive impairments don't become permanent disabilities." 

The topic is a serious concern,with more than 5 million patients admitted to the ICU for conditions ranging from respiratory failure to recovery after surgery. ICU complications are especially common in patients with sepsis, the leading cause of death in American hospitals, the article said, killing more than 258,000 people a year worldwide, leaving 1.4 million survivors at risk for a disability and costing more than $20 billion between 2000 and 2009.

A Vanderbilt University study looked at survivors of critical illness with cognitive and physical disabilities as a result of their condition, and compared those that participated in physical therapy and rehab against those that didn't receive the interventions. The group that received the therapy and rehab scored better when tested to perform tasks with multiple steps. A separate study at Indiana University saw reduced numbers of emergency room visits and hospital readmissions in patients that underwent therapy after leaving the ICU, the Journal reported.

Hospital-acquired pneumonia was associated with 16.9 percent of ICU stays, bloodstream infection with 14.5 percent, ventilator-acquired pneumonia with 3.7 percent and surgical-site infection with 1.5 percent, FierceHealthcare previously reported, adding an extra $16,000 in expenses to each ICU stay.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article