Rehabilitation Levels in Patients with COVID-19 Admitted to Intensive Care Requiring Invasive Ventilation. An Observational Study

David McWilliams, Jonathan Weblin, James Hodson, Tonny Veenith, Tony Whitehouse, Catherine Snelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
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Rationale: Patients with severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have complex organ support needs that necessitate prolonged stays in the intensive care unit (ICU), likely to result in a high incidence of neuromuscular weakness and loss of well-being. Early and structured rehabilitation has been associated with improved outcomes for patients requiring prolonged periods of mechanical ventilation, but at present no data are available to describe similar interventions or outcomes in COVID-19 populations.Objectives: To describe the demographics, clinical status, level of rehabilitation, and mobility status at ICU discharge of patients with COVID-19.Methods: Adults admitted to the ICU with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and mechanically ventilated for >24 hours were included. Rehabilitation status was measured daily using the Manchester Mobility Score to identify the time taken to first mobilize (defined as sitting on the edge of the bed or higher) and highest level of mobility achieved at ICU discharge.Results: A total of n = 177 patients were identified, of whom n = 110 survived to ICU discharge and were included in the subsequent analysis. While on ICU, patients required prolonged periods of mechanical ventilation (mean 19 ± 10 d), most received neuromuscular blockade (90%) and 67% were placed in the prone position on at least one occasion. The mean ± standard deviation time to first mobilize was 14 ± 7 days, with a median Manchester Mobility Score at ICU discharge of 5 (interquartile range: 4–6), which represents participants able to stand and step around to a chair with or without assistance. Time to mobilize was significantly longer in those with higher body mass index (P < 0.001), and older patients (P = 0.012) and those with more comorbidities (P = 0.017) were more likely to require further rehabilitation after discharge.Conclusions: The early experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom resembles the experience in other countries, with high acuity of illness and prolonged period of mechanical ventilation required for those patients admitted to the ICU. Although the time to commence rehabilitation was delayed owing to this severity of illness, rehabilitation was possible within the ICU and led to increased levels of mobility from waking before ICU discharge. Clinical trial registered with (NCT04396197).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This article is open access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License 4.0 ( For commercial usage and reprints, please contact Diane Gern (


  • Coronavirus
  • Intensive care unit
  • Mobilization
  • Physiotherapy
  • Rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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