Even as the odds of survival for intensive care unit patients increase, most of them are ill-equipped to deal with "post-intensive care syndrome," the range of mental and physical problems that often follow an ICU stay, according to a series of articles published in AACN Advanced Critical Care.
The articles provide examples of how healthcare organizations address the syndrome as well as its effects on family members.
The first study calls for the development of rehabilitation programs to stave off the condition by restoring patients' mobility. Researchers found broad variation in mobility-based rehab programs across a single system's five ICUs. Continuity is vital in such programs, as successful mobility rehab shortens stays, reduces delirium risk and improves patients' self-care ability.
The second, third and fourth studies analyze both the syndrome and its effects on family members. Researchers in the third study recommend hospitals develop an educational program for patients and family to reduce the risk of both, while the fourth study recommends peer support groups for critical illness survivors and their families.
"Millions of ICU survivors are being discharged into the community, unprepared and uneducated about what to expect and how best to cope, adjust and recover. Family members and caregivers are not immune to the psychological trauma of the ICU experience and may develop physical symptoms and social isolation," Mark Mikkelsen, M,D., lead author of the fourth study, said in a statement. "Innovative strategies are urgently needed to meet their needs, and peer support groups can do more than help individual survivors. They position the survivors themselves as experts key to finding solutions."