Implementation of the physical function ICU test tool in a resource constrained intensive care unit to promote early mobilisation of critically ill patients- a feasibility study

Journal Article


Journal Title

Archives of Physiotherapy

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

BioMed Central


University of Cape Town

Background: The shift of focus in outcome measures from mortality to assessment of functional status in intensive care unit (ICU) patients has resulted in the emergence of mobilisation of critically ill patients as a standard physiotherapy practice in most medium and high income countries. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of an early mobilisation program and to report on the changes in patient clinical outcomes following the intervention in a low income country. Methods: A prospective cohort study was carried out at one public hospital. An adult cohort of 35 patients was recruited within 24 h of being admitted into the unit, irrespective of ventilation method over a period of three months. An early mobilisation programme was implemented and prescribed using the Physical Function ICU Test (PFIT-s) which commenced in either the ICU or high dependent unit. Results: The median age of the 35 patients was 29 years (IQR = 24–45 years). More than half of the patients had undergone surgery due to either gastrointestinal problems or obstetrical complications. A total of 94 out of a possible of 219 exercise sessions were delivered to the patients (43.0 %). The tool was implemented in 32 (91.4 %) patients on the initial PFIT-s measurement and 16 (45.7 %) of the patients required the assistance of two people to stand. The Initial PFIT-s mean score was 5.3 ± 1.8. On final PFIT-s measurement, out of the 30 (85.7 %) patients seen, 15 (42.9 %) of the patients did not require any assistance to stand and the final PFIT-s mean score was 7.0 ± 1.9. There was a significant difference in both the initial PFIT-s total score (t-value = 2.34, df = 30, p = .03) and the final PFIT-s score (t-value = 3.66, df = 28, p = .001) between males and females. During the treatment, no adverse event occurred in any of the patients. Conclusion: An early mobilisation program using PFIT-s was feasible and safe. There was a difference in functional capability based on gender, with males being more functionally active. Specific inclusion and exclusion criteria can lead to a delayed early mobilisation activities in ICU patients.