Physical therapists (PTs) have long understood that mobility plays a key role in a patient's recovery from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), but now national-profile articles are bringing this fact to a much wider audience. In recent articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic, physical therapy is being identified as 1 of several post-ICU treatments that can reduce the risk of long-term cognitive and physical impairment after stays in the ICU.
WSJ reported on November 25 on the prevalence of post-intensive care syndrome, a condition that includes brain dysfunction, post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
Researchers quoted for the story pointed to the importance of "hard-core physical and mental rehabilitation" in successful recovery and asserted that "post-ICU patients need the same kinds of occupational and physical therapy as heart attack and stroke survivors."
A related essay in the November 21 Atlantic by Daniela J. Lamas, MD, touches on the long-term challenges faced by patients treated in ICUs and advocates for treatment approaches that acknowledge that release from the ICU "is not a victory narrative now, but one person's unfinished story."
The articles echo earlier pieces of reporting that appeared on National Public Radio and other outlets, most of which were sparked by a Vanderbilt University report on post-ICU conditions.
PTs play a key role in successful treatment of patients in ICUs, recently released from the units, and throughout the post-acute care continuum. APTA offers multiple resources on ICU-related practice, including a video on collaborative care models in the ICU and continuing education on promoting early mobility. The latest evidence-based research, including an article titled "Innovative Mobility Strategies for the Patient With Intensive Care Unit-Acquired Weakness: A Case Report," are available through PTNow, APTA's research access tool.
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