We know more now about what happens for patients who have been critically ill requiring ICU care. Many patients develop persistent health problems after ICU. Some patients experience symptoms for weeks, months and even years after ICU.
The name given to these persistent symptoms is “Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)”. About half of the patients surviving critical illness go on to have PICS.
PICS involves a combination of persistent symptoms. They are divided into 3 groups:
PICS can affect both the patient and family.
In ICU a patient is affected by many different things. Firstly, they will be affected by their critical illness or injury. They will also be affected by the use of equipment helping support them. For example many patients need a breathing tube and ventilator to support them. Patients will also be affected by the medications used in ICU. For example strong medications are used for pain relief and sedation. A combination of these things contribute to PICS.
There are a number of steps involved in diagnosing PICS. First, doctors will chat with patients to find out how they are managing. Doctors will ask questions about daily activities. They will do a physical examination to test for muscle weakness.
Patients may be asked to do an assessment of their mental function. Doctors will also be interested in a patient's emotional symptoms. They may ask a patient to fill out a questionnaire to help diagnose anxiety, depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The healthcare team work hard to help prevent and treat PICS.
While a patient is in ICU the team will:
After return home from ICU, patients will be:
This topic was reviewed by an intensive care specialist in July 2022.