A growing number of patients are being discharged from intensive care units, cured of the critical illness that put them there but facing a new and potentially debilitating condition — ICU-acquired weakness.
Intensive care patients are known to lose muscle mass and function for many reasons, ranging from prolonged immobilization, to the effects of ICU treatments such as mechanical ventilation to the critical illness itself.
While the mechanisms of muscle atrophy (loss) and function during an ICU stay have been studied well, little research has been conducted into the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for recovering muscle strength over the long-term.
A new study found that some patients who continue to suffer from weakness six months after they were discharged from the ICU, demonstrate persistent muscle wasting, even when the biologic functions that commonly cause muscles to atrophy have returned to normal such as inflammation or the breakdown of proteins in muscle tissue.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that reconstitution of muscle size normalizes strength; patients who managed to regrow muscle remained weak. In some cases, this muscle weakness causes profound disability and reduced quality of life, and can last a lifetime, said the study