Early mobility in the ICU: Working with the TEAM


Critical Care Network

Nonrespiratory Critical Care Section

Advocating for early mobility for patients in the ICU seems like a no-brainer. This is especially true for critically ill patients, in which weakness is more common and can result in worse outcomes (Kress JP, et al. N Engl J Med. 2014;370:1626). This advocacy is endorsed by major societies and guidelines, like the ABCDEF bundle (Balas MC, et al. Crit Care Med. 2013;41:S116), in which “E” stands for Early mobility and exercise. In fact, the PADIS guidelines, addressing Pain, Agitation, Delirium, Immobility, and Sleep in the ICU, added Immobility and Sleep (the “I” and “S” in PADIS) to the prior PAD guidelines in the latest update in 2018, to stress the importance of early mobility in the ICU (Devlin JW, et al. Crit Care Med. 2018;46[9]:e825). Multiple studies have shown a positive impact of early mobility in the ICU on patients’ outcomes (Tipping CJ, et al. Intensive Care Med. 2017;43:171).

The recent TEAM study examined an early mobility approach in mechanically ventilated patients and found no difference in the primary outcome of alive and out-of-hospital at 180 days (N Engl J Med. 2022;387:1747).

Before concluding, it is worth realizing that the usual care arm included mobilization that was otherwise normally provided. The intervention arm protocolized the early mobility to be done simultaneously with the minimization of sedation. Patients’ assessment occurred in 81% in the usual care arm vs 94% in the intervention arm; both numbers are much higher than reported data in the ICU (Jolley SE, et al. Crit Care Med. 2017;45:205).

Revisiting the question of early mobility in the ICU, more data are needed to clarify the best methodology, sedation, timing, amount, and type of patients who will benefit the most. Until then, it should remain a goal for ICUs and part of the daily discussion when caring for critically ill patients.

Mohammed J. Al-Jaghbeer, MBBS, FCCP

Section Member-at-Large

Salim Surani, MD, MPH, FCCP

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