PICS (Post Intensive Care Syndrome)

By Jeanette Kochman, PT, DPT, OCS

PICS is a term used to raise awareness regarding problems that commonly occur in survivors of critical illness (patients who received care in an ICU). While we do not yet know the effect on people surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that many of those who experienced critical illness will develop the common problems associated with PICS which include physical, cognitive, and mental health impairments.

Particularly relevant for physical therapists are the physical complications of PICS. These include impairments in skeletal muscle strength, pulmonary function, pain, walking ability, activities of daily living (ADL), and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). Physical therapists, as experts in optimizing movement, are ideally positioned to address these impairments and promote optimal function.

Looking at layers here, Lifeline therapy is ideally positioned to address the pulmonary impairments, as well. Pulmonary impairments can manifest as increased work of breathing at rest and during exertion and ineffective cough due to decreased respiratory muscle strength.   Potential benefit of respiratory muscle training and other pulmonary rehabilitation interventions exists.  Lifeline offers pulmonary rehabilitation where an interdisciplinary team of physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and a social worker join efforts to individualize a patient’s program.

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