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Neuromuscular dysfunction acquired in critical illness: a systematic review



To determine the prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes of critical illness neuromuscular abnormalities (CINMA).


Systematic review.

Data sources and study selection

MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library were searched for reports on adult ICU patients who were evaluated for CINMA clinically and electrophysiologically. Studies were included if they contained sufficient data to quantify the association between CINMA and relevant exposures and/or outcome variables.

Measurements and results

CINMA was diagnosed in 655 of 1421 [46% (95% confidence interval 43–49%)] adult ICU patients enrolled in 24 studies, all with inclusion criteria of sepsis, multi-organ failure, or prolonged mechanical ventilation. Diagnostic criteria for CINMA were not uniform, and few reports unequivocally differentiated between polyneuropathy, myopathy, and mixed types of CINMA. The risk of CINMA was associated with hyperglycemia (and inversely associated with tight glycemic control), the systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, multiple organ dysfunction, renal replacement therapy, and catecholamine administration. Across studies, there was no consistent relationship between CINMA and patient age, gender, severity of illness, or use of glucocorticoids, neuromuscular blockers, aminoglycosides, or midazolam. Unadjusted mortality was not increased in the majority of patients with CINMA, but mechanical ventilation and ICU and hospital stay were prolonged.


The risk of CINMA is nearly 50% in ICU patients with sepsis, multi-organ failure, or protracted mechanical ventilation. The association of CINMA with frequently cited CINMA risk factors (glucocorticoids, neuromuscular blockers) and with short-term survival is uncertain. Available data indicate glycemic control as a potential strategy to decrease CINMA risk.

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The authors wish to thank Ahmet Hoke, MD, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, for his attentive manuscript review and helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Robert D. Stevens.

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Stevens, R.D., Dowdy, D.W., Michaels, R.K. et al. Neuromuscular dysfunction acquired in critical illness: a systematic review. Intensive Care Med 33, 1876–1891 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-007-0772-2

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  • Intensive Care Unit
  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome
  • Critical Illness
  • Intensive Care Unit Patient