Aim. To determine the quality of life, particularly physical function, of intensive care survivors during the early recovery process.
Background. Survivors of critical illness face ongoing challenges after discharge from the intensive care unit and on returning home. Knowledge about health issues during early phases of recovery after hospital discharge is emerging, yet still limited.
Design. Descriptive study where the former critically ill patients completed instruments on general health and quality of life (SF-36) in the first six months of recovery.
Methods. Participants responded to the SF-36 questionnaire and questions about problems, one to six months after intensive care, either face-to-face or by telephone.
Results. Thirty-nine participants had a mean age of 60 years; of them, 59% were men and had been in intensive care for 1–69 days (median = 5). Most participants (69%) rated their health as good or fair, but 54% rated general health as worse than a year ago. Mean quality of life scores for all scales ranged from 25–65·5%, with particularly low scores for Role-Physical (25) and Pain (45·1). Half the participants reported difficulty with mobility, sleep and concentration, and 72% that their responsibilities at home had changed. No relationships were found between SF-36 scores and admission diagnosis, gender, age or length of intensive care stay.
Conclusions. These survivors of critical illness and hospitalisation in an intensive care unit perceive their general health to be good despite experiencing significant physical limitations and disturbed sleep during recovery.
Relevance to clinical practice. Knowledge of issues in these early phases of recovery and discussion and resolution of patient problems could normalise the experience for the patient and help to facilitate better quality of life.