Long-term outcome after the acute respiratory distress syndrome: different from general critical illness?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To review the current research data on long-term outcome and health-related quality of life in survivors of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and to compare these findings with those from non-ARDS patients surviving critical illness.

Recent findings

Between 6 months and 2 years after discharge from ICU, survivors of ARDS present with substantial impairments of the levels of body function (muscle strength, walking capacity and/or physical activity (physical SF-36 score). In contrast to non-ARDS patients from surgical ICUs, a standardized intensified physical therapy during early course of illness in ARDS patients could not show an improvement of long-term physical function performance. Furthermore, a substantial part of further ARDS patients suffer from depression (26–33%), anxiety (38–44%) or posttraumatic stress disorder (22–24%). In general, the level of functional autonomy and daily life activities was reduced, and in one study, 6 months after ICU-discharge this level was significantly lower in ARDS patients compared with non-ARDS patients. In a recent study, 44% of ARDS survivors were jobless 1 year after critical illness, whereas half of previously employed patients returned to work within 4 months after hospital discharge. General health-related quality of life was significantly reduced compared with a matched population in all studies.

Summary

Surviving ARDS is associated with a long-term substantial reduction in health-related quality of life and such a reduction does not differ from findings in patients surviving other critical illness. In further research, a special attention should be paid to prevention measures of the ‘post intensive care syndrome’ as well as to patient important domains, which might better explain the patient's and families’ demands.

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