Early Rehabilitation in the Intensive Care Unit: Preventing Impairment of Physical and Mental Health

Ann M. Parker, Thiti Sricharoenchai, Dale M. Needham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Survivors of critical illness often experience new or worsening impairments of physical, cognitive, and/or mental health, referred to as Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). Such impairments can be long-lasting and negatively affect survivors’ quality of life. Early rehabilitation in the intensive care unit (ICU), while patients remain on life-support therapy, may reduce the complications associated with PICS. This article addresses evidence-based rehabilitation interventions to reduce the physical and mental health impairments associated with PICS. Implementation of effective early rehabilitation interventions targeting physical impairment requires consideration of five factors: barriers, benefits, feasibility, safety, and resources. Mental health impairments may be addressed by use of the following interventions: use of ICU diaries, early in-ICU psychological interventions, and post-ICU coping skills training. In both cases, a multidisciplinary team-based approach is paramount to successful incorporation of early rehabilitation into routine practice in the ICU.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-314
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Anxiety
  • Critical illness
  • Depression
  • ICU diary
  • Mental health
  • Mobility
  • Muscle weakness
  • Physical therapy modalities
  • Post-Intensive Care Syndrome
  • Post-traumatic-stress disorder
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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