Why do so many survivors suffer from PICS (Post Intensive Care Syndrome)

and what advances are currently being made in the field of medicine to minimize this?

Question by ARDS Survivor Jean B., November 1, 2020p

Doctor Response:

doctor with smart phoneThe explanation for the Post ICU syndrome of muscles weakness, depression, and other neurologic effects are apparently related to the (1) sedation that patients need when they are in the ICU, even though we have tried to reduce it; (2) losing day and night sleep cycle; (3) isolation from family and friends; (4) apprehension that is normal while in the ICU; (5) plus some effects from the infections that alter the immune system although the mechanisms for understanding these pathways is incomplete.

Also, related to that question, what are the most common brain-related after-effects?  I have personally experienced so many.

There are many neurologic effects including difficulty resuming normal sleep patterns, mild depression, anxiety, and some muscle weakness and challenges resuming normal work or pre-illness activities, partly because of reduced ability to concentrate. However, with medical assessment and careful follow-up, most of these neurologic effects will gradually improve.

Michael A. Matthay, M.D.
Professor, Medicine & Anesthesia
Associate Director, Intensive Care Unit
University of California, San Francisco
Senior Associate, Cardiovascular Research Institute
505 Parnassus Ave, M-917
San Francisco, CA


ARDS Foundation invites those in the ARDS Community to ask general questions related to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the complications that surround ARDS, as well as issues that occur as a result of Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS).

Each month a specialist will address issues of concern surrounding the question. Periodically, a specialist may recap current research related to ARDS.


Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


By | 2020-11-30T17:22:09-06:00 November 2nd, 2020|Ask The Doctor|Comments Off on Why do so many survivors suffer from PICS (Post Intensive Care Syndrome)