Physical therapy benefits ICU patients

A recent controlled trial of 104 patients on ventilators in an intensive care unit confirms that "Co-ordinating the efforts of doctors, physical and occupational therapists and nurses can achieve better outcomes in terms of the survival and mental and physical recovery of critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation."

"Among the 49 patients who were assigned to early exercise and mobilization — bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, transferring from bed to chair, and using the toilet — 59 per cent were able to walk unaided and carry out these tasks of daily living after discharge.

In comparison, 35 per cent of the 55 patients in the control group who received standard care were able to achieve the same "independent functional status" over four weeks of followup.

People who received the early physical therapy intervention also suffered half as many days of delirium in the ICU (2.0 days) as those in the control group (4.0 days).

Intervention patients also needed a ventilator for fewer days while in ICU (23.5 days versus 21.1 days for control), the researchers found.

"A strategy for whole-body rehabilitation — consisting of interruption of sedation and physical and occupational therapy in the earliest days of critical illness — was safe and well tolerated, and resulted in better functional outcomes at hospital discharge, a shorter duration of delirium, and more ventilator-free days compared with standard care," the study's authors concluded."

As a family-centred care support, the integrated Rehab team can also help interested parents learn how to safely touch their sedated or ventilated child. What about helping parents interested in doing more than read to their child and stroke their hair - is there a place for physical therapists to show interested parents basic forms of therapeutic touch or tiny tot massage? There is debate about the exact therapeutic benefits of touch. Would parents feel less stress or higher satisfaction ratings? Can parental touch in the ICU contribute to healing?

Here is the CBC article on research into physical therapy benefits for ICU patients.

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