, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 914-921
Date: 21 May 2005

Studying outcomes of intensive care unit survivors: the role of the cohort study

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As research focuses on long-term patient outcomes and the “real world” effectiveness of intensive care unit (ICU) therapies, the cohort study is increasingly being used in critical care research.


Using examples of prior cohort studies in intensive care, we review the key elements of this research design and evaluate its advantages and limitations for critical care research. Furthermore, through a systematic search of the literature we summarize data from 70 prior published cohort studies of medium- and long-term outcomes in adult critical care medicine.


This research demonstrates that the prospective cohort study is a powerful research design that has not been fully leveraged to assess relationships between exposures and long-term outcomes of ICU survivors.


We make recommendations for the design of future cohort studies to maximize the impact of this research in improving the long-term outcomes of critically ill patients.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00134-005-2757-3
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health (ALI SCCOR Grant # P050 HL 73994-01). D.M.N. is supported by Clinician-Scientist Awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the University of Toronto, and a Detweiler Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.