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Thorax. 2018 Mar;73(3):213-221. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2016-209858. Epub 2017 Aug 5.

Intensive versus standard physical rehabilitation therapy in the critically ill (EPICC): a multicentre, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial.

Author information

Perioperative and Critical Care Directorate, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Department of Physiotherapy, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Newcastle Clinical Trials Unit, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.
Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.
Department of Anaesthetics, Sunderland Royal Hospital, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Sunderland, UK.
Department of Anaesthetics, James Cook University Hospital, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough, UK.



Early physical rehabilitation in the intensive care unit (ICU) has been shown to improve short-term clinical outcomes but long-term benefit has not been proven and the optimum intensity of rehabilitation is not known.


We conducted a randomised, parallel-group, allocation-concealed, assessor-blinded, controlled trial in patients who had received at least 48 hours of invasive or non-invasive ventilation. Participants were randomised in a 1:1 ratio, stratified by admitting ICU, admission type and level of independence. The intervention group had a target of 90 min physical rehabilitation per day, the control group a target of 30 min per day (both Monday to Friday). The primary outcome was the Physical Component Summary (PCS) measure of SF-36 at 6 months.


We recruited 308 participants over 34 months: 150 assigned to the intervention and 158 to the control group. The intervention group received a median (IQR) of 161 (67-273) min of physical rehabilitation on ICU compared with 86 (31-139) min in the control group. At 6 months, 62 participants in the intervention group and 54 participants in the control group contributed primary outcome data. In the intervention group, 43 had died, 11 had withdrawn and 34 were lost to follow-up, while in the control group, 56 had died, 5 had withdrawn and 43 were lost to follow-up. There was no difference in the primary outcome at 6 months, mean (SD) PCS 37 (12.2) in the intervention group and 37 (11.3) in the control group.


In this study, ICU-based physical rehabilitation did not appear to improve physical outcomes at 6 months compared with standard physical rehabilitation.


ISRCTN 20436833.


critical care; early mobilisation; mechanical ventilation; physiotherapy; rehabilitation

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