From the Journals

One-third of critical illness survivors emerge from ICU with functional deterioration



More patients are surviving critical illnesses requiring ICU care but many emerge with physical debility that may or may not eventually resolve.

Over the past decade, functional status deterioration after critical illness has become more common and of greater magnitude, despite concurrent efforts to reduce post–intensive care syndrome, based on a retrospective analysis of more than 100,000 patients.

Almost one-third of patients who survived nonsurgical ICU admission had evidence of functional status decline, reported lead author Nicholas E. Ingraham, MD, of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues.

“Increasing capacity and decreasing mortality have created an evolving and diverse population of ICU survivors,” the investigators wrote in Critical Care Medicine. “Today’s survivors of critical illness are increasingly burdened by extensive physical and psychological comorbidities, often resulting in reduced quality of life.”

To determine trends in post–intensive care syndrome from 2008 to 2016, Dr. Ingraham and colleagues analyzed data from the Cerner Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation outcomes database, a national prospective cohort. Out of 202,786 adult patients admitted to the ICU, 129,917 were eligible for the study. Patients were excluded because of surgical admission, death, lack of functional status documentation, or inadequate hospital size or duration of participation. The final dataset had a median age of 63 years, with a slight predominance of male patients (54.0%). Most patients (80.9%) were White.

The primary outcome was defined as presence or absence of functional status deterioration, based on functional status at admission versus time of discharge. The secondary outcome was magnitude of deterioration over time.

The analysis, which controlled for age and severity of illness, revealed concerning trends for both outcomes.

Across the entire cohort 38,116 patients (29.3%) had functional status deterioration, with a 15% increase in prevalence over the course of the decade that spanned all disease categories (prevalence rate ratio, 1.15; 95% confidence interval, 1.13-1.17; P < .001). The magnitude of functional status decline also increased by 4% (odds ratio, 1.04; P < .001), with all but nonsurgical trauma patients showing greater deterioration over time.

“However, despite the decreasing magnitude of functional status deterioration in nonsurgical trauma, many admission diagnoses in this category remain in the top quartile of higher risk for functional status deterioration,” the investigators noted.

Functional status decline was most common among patients with head and polytrauma (OR, 3.39), followed closely by chest and spine trauma (OR, 3.38), and spine trauma (OR, 3.19). The top quartile of categories for prevalence of deterioration included nonsurgical trauma, neurologic, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal diseases.

Functional status decline was least common among patients diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis (OR, 0.27) or asthma (OR, 0.35).

“We believe our study provides important information that can be used in beginning to identify patients at high risk of functional status decline,” the investigators concluded. “Improving the identification of these patients and targeting appropriate interventions to mitigate this decline will be important directions for future studies in this area.”

Dr. David L. Bowton, professor emeritus, department of anesthesiology, section on critical care, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston Salem, N.C.

Dr. David L. Bowton

According to David L. Bowton, MD, FCCP, professor emeritus, section on critical care, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston-Salem, N.C., the findings show just how common functional decline is after critical illness, and may actually underestimate prevalence.

“Because the authors employed a course evaluation tool employing only three categories of ability/disability and abstracted the level of disability from the medical record, they likely underestimated the frequency of clinically important, though not detected, disability at the time of hospital discharge,” Dr. Bowton said. “The study did not address cognitive impairment which can be detected in half of patients at 3 months following critical illness, and which significantly affects patients’ quality of life (Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020;202[2]:193-201).”

Dr. Bowton suggested that evidence-based methods of preventing post–intensive care syndrome are limited.

“Current efforts to improve post-ICU functional and cognitive outcomes suffer from the lack of proven effective interventions (Crit Care Med. 2019;47[11]:1607-18),” he said. “Observational data indicates that compliance with the ABCDEF bundle decreases the duration and incidence of delirium, ICU length of stay, duration of mechanical ventilation, and mortality (Crit Care Med. 2019;47[1]:3-14). However, the implications of these improvements on postdischarge functional outcomes are unknown as area the relative importance of individual elements of the bundle. Early mobility and patient and family diaries appear to improve functional status at discharge and postdischarge anxiety and depression, though the evidence supporting this is thin.”

Appropriate intervention may be especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

“The impact of COVID on ICU staffing adequacy and stress is significant and the impact on quality bundle compliance and the availability of support services is currently not clear, but likely to be detrimental, especially to support services such as physical therapy that are already commonly understaffed,” Dr. Bowton said.

The study was supported by grants from the University of Minnesota’s Critical Care Research and Programmatic Development Program; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the University of Minnesota Clinical and Translational Science via the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The investigators reported financial relationships with no other relevant organizations. Dr. Bowton reported no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Ingraham NE et al. Crit Care Med. 2020 Nov. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004524.

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