Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 914–921

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

  • David W. Dowdy
  • Dale M. Needham
  • Pedro A. Mendez-Tellez
  • Margaret S. Herridge
  • Peter J. Pronovost

DOI: 10.1007/s00134-005-2657-6

Cite this article as:
Dowdy, D.W., Needham, D.M., Mendez-Tellez, P.A. et al. Intensive Care Med (2005) 31: 914. doi:10.1007/s00134-005-2657-6



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.


Cohort studies Outcome assessment (health care) Risk factors Review literature Epidemiological methods Critical illness 

Supplementary material

supp.pdf (412 kb)
(PDF 412 KB)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Dowdy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dale M. Needham
    • 3
    • 4
  • Pedro A. Mendez-Tellez
    • 5
    • 6
  • Margaret S. Herridge
    • 4
    • 7
  • Peter J. Pronovost
    • 5
    • 6
    • 8
  1. 1.School of MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Anesthesiology/Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.Department of SurgeryJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  7. 7.Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  8. 8.Department of Health Policy and ManagementJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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