Even A Tiny Bit Of Activity Can Speed Recovery In Intensive Care Patients

WASHINGTON (AP) — The intensive care unit is a last frontier for physical therapy: It’s hard to exercise patients hooked to ventilators so they can breathe.

Some hospitals do manage to help critically ill patients stand or walk despite being tethered to life support. Now research that put sick mice on tiny treadmills shows why even a little activity may help speed recovery. It’s work that supports more mobility in the ICU.

“I think we can do a better job of implementing early mobility therapies,” said Dr. D. Clark Files of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who led the research and whose hospital is trying to get more critically ill patients up, ventilator and all.

Hospitals have long nudged less critical patients out of bed, to prevent their muscles from wasting away. But over the past several years, studies in ICUs have shown that some of the sickest of the sick also could benefit — getting out of intensive care sooner, with fewer complications — once it’s medically feasible for them to try.

This isn’t just passively changing a patient’s position. It could involve helping them sit on the side of the bed, do some arm exercises with an elastic band or in-bed cycling, or even walk a bit with nurses holding all the tubes and wires out of the way. It takes extra staff, and especially for patients breathing through tubes down their throats, it isn’t clear how often it’s attempted outside specialized centers.

At Wake Forest Baptist, a physical therapist helped Terry Culler, 54, do arm and leg exercises without dislodging his ventilator tubing, working up to the day he stood from the bedside for the first time since developing respiratory failure about three weeks earlier. “I cheered, I was clapping,” his wife, Ruanne Culler of Lexington, North Carolina, —> Read More