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Phys Ther. 2013 Jul;93(7):975-85. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20110420. Epub 2013 Apr 4.

Physical therapist-established intensive care unit early mobilization program: quality improvement project for critical care at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

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Department of Rehabilitative Services, University of California San Francisco-UCSF Medical Center, 400 Parnassus Ave, A 68, San Francisco, CA 94143-0228, USA.



Long-term weakness and disability are common after an intensive care unit (ICU) stay. Usual care in the ICU prevents most patients from receiving preventative early mobilization.


The study objective was to describe a quality improvement project established by a physical therapist at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center from 2009 to 2011. The goal of the program was to reduce patients' ICU length of stay by increasing the number of patients in the ICU receiving physical therapy and decreasing the time from ICU admission to physical therapy initiation.


This study was a 9-month retrospective analysis of a quality improvement project.


An interprofessional ICU Early Mobilization Group established and promoted guidelines for mobilizing patients in the ICU. A physical therapist was dedicated to a 16-bed medical-surgical ICU to provide physical therapy to selected patients within 48 hours of ICU admission. Patients receiving early physical therapy intervention in the ICU in 2010 were compared with patients receiving physical therapy under usual care practice in the same ICU in 2009.


From 2009 to 2010, the number of patients receiving physical therapy in the ICU increased from 179 to 294. The median times (interquartile ranges) from ICU admission to physical therapy evaluation were 3 days (9 days) in 2009 and 1 day (2 days) in 2010. The ICU length of stay decreased by 2 days, on average, and the percentage of ambulatory patients discharged to home increased from 55% to 77%.


This study relied upon the retrospective analysis of data from 6 collectors, and the intervention lacked physical therapy coverage for 7 days per week.


The improvements in outcomes demonstrated the value and feasibility of a physical therapist-led early mobilization program.

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