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Chapter 86: Post-Intensive Care Syndrome

Leonard Lim; and Graciela Soto


Medical Professional Education

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Critical Care Physicians


Over the past decade, survival from critical illness has dramatically increased due to a better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of disease, improved treatment strategies and advancements in medical technology. Several studies have shown improved survival and long-term outcomes in survivors of critically illness. However, surviving the intensive care unit (ICU) stay is just the start of a long road to recovery for a majority of these patients. The discharge from the ICU opens the path to a long journey of challenging physical rehabilitation, mood disorders, cognitive impairment, psychological distress, financial hardship, and caregiver burden and burnout.
In recent years there has been a growing recognition of impairments that affect the physical, psychological, social, and emotional aspects of the individual after ICU discharge that may adversely impact daily functioning and quality of life (QOL). Recently, the term “post-intensive care syndrome” (PICS) is used to describe any new or worsening impairments in physical, cognitive, or mental health status arising after critical illness and persisting beyond the acute care hospitalization.1 PICS may persist for months to years after hospital discharge. Most impairments will diminish with time but some may linger on until the patient’s actual demise. This chapter will explore in detail the different domains affected in PICS, its impact on the individual and society, and offer insights into future developments.

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