For some COVID-19 patients returning home after treatment in intensive care units, the road to recovery can be longer than expected. Post intensive care syndrome (PICS) is a collection of ailments which can include muscle weakness, difficulty sleeping, memory issues and mental health problems from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. These symptoms can make it difficult for people to return to normal life and work.
The syndrome can affect anyone recovering from serious illness after a spell in critical care. But for COVID-19 patients, the experience of the virus and the exceptional circumstances of their treatment might leave them even more susceptible. Most will have been treated in stretched ICUs alongside larger than usual numbers of seriously ill patients, and cared for by staff wearing full PPE. Also, during their illness, COVID-19 patients are isolated from family and friends - a set of circumstances which can leave many survivors with ongoing stress as well as the physical problems related to the illness itself.
Researchers at York, working as part of the PREPARE partnership with the Kings Fund, are gathering evidence from published literature, and the views of critical care staff and GPs, to identify patients who might be more at risk of developing PICS, and to inform decisions about additional support that should be made available for vulnerable patients.
Early findings from research identified general (pre-COVID-19) risk factors for PICS, which include previous mental health problems, the severity of symptoms and occurrence of delirium in ICU. The rapid-response research project is funded through PREPARE by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme, as part of the NIHR and the Department of Health and Social Care's wider response to funding COVID-19 research. It is due to report at the end of August 2020.