Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 171–183 | Cite as

The effects of active mobilisation and rehabilitation in ICU on mortality and function: a systematic review

  • Claire J. Tipping
  • Meg Harrold
  • Anne Holland
  • Lorena Romero
  • Travis Nisbet
  • Carol L. Hodgson
Systematic Review



Early active mobilisation and rehabilitation in the intensive care unit (ICU) is being used to prevent the long-term functional consequences of critical illness. This review aimed to determine the effect of active mobilisation and rehabilitation in the ICU on mortality, function, mobility, muscle strength, quality of life, days alive and out of hospital to 180 days, ICU and hospital lengths of stay, duration of mechanical ventilation and discharge destination, linking outcomes with the World Health Organization International Classification of Function Framework.


A PRISMA checklist-guided systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised and controlled clinical trials.


Fourteen studies of varying quality including a total of 1753 patients were reviewed. Active mobilisation and rehabilitation had no impact on short- or long-term mortality (p > 0.05). Meta-analysis showed that active mobilisation and rehabilitation led to greater muscle strength (body function) at ICU discharge as measured using the Medical Research Council Sum Score (mean difference 8.62 points, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.39–15.86), greater probability of walking without assistance (activity limitation) at hospital discharge (odds ratio 2.13, 95% CI 1.19–3.83), and more days alive and out of hospital to day 180 (participation restriction) (mean difference 9.69, 95% CI 1.7–17.66). There were no consistent effects on function, quality of life, ICU or hospital length of stay, duration of mechanical ventilation or discharge destination.


Active mobilisation and rehabilitation in the ICU has no impact on short- and long-term mortality, but may improve mobility status, muscle strength and days alive and out of hospital to 180 days.

Registration of protocol number



Intensive care units Critical illness Early mobility Rehabilitation Mortality 



To the authors who supplied clarification of published data and provided unpublished results: Professor Linda Denehy, Dr. Marc Moss, Geetha Kayambu, Dr. Krysta Wolfe and Dr. Nathan Brummel.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

None of the authors have any financial conflicts of interest. Three of the authors (CT, MH and CH) are authors on one of the randomised controlled trials included in the review. The data extraction and risk of bias assessment for this study were completed by two independent researchers.

Ethics approval

Not applicable.

Supplementary material

134_2016_4612_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)
134_2016_4612_MOESM2_ESM.docx (318 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 318 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg and ESICM 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire J. Tipping
    • 1
    • 2
  • Meg Harrold
    • 4
    • 5
  • Anne Holland
    • 2
    • 6
  • Lorena Romero
    • 7
  • Travis Nisbet
    • 3
  • Carol L. Hodgson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive MedicineMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhysiotherapyThe Alfred HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  5. 5.Royal Perth HospitalPerthAustralia
  6. 6.Latrobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.The Alfred HospitalMelbourneAustralia

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