Body weight-supported bedside treadmill training facilitates walking in ICU patients

Early mobilisation is advocated to improve recovery of intensive care unit (ICU) survivors. However, severe weakness in combination with tubes, lines and machinery are practical barriers for the implementation of ambulation with critically ill patients. The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of Body Weight-Supported Treadmill Training (BWSTT) in critically ill patients in the ICU.

A custom build bedside Body Weight-Supported Treadmill was used and evaluated in medical and surgical patients in the ICU. Feasibility was evaluated according to eligibility, successful number of BWSTT, number of staff needed, adverse events, number of patients that could not have walked without BWSTT, patient satisfaction and anxiety.

Twenty participants, underwent 54 sessions BWSTT. Two staff members executed the BWSTT and no adverse events occurred. Medical equipment did not have to be disconnected during all treatment sessions. In 74% of the sessions, the participants would not have been able to walk without the BWSTT. Patient satisfaction with BWSTT was high and anxiety low.

This proof of concept study demonstrated that BWSTT is safe, reduces staff resource, and facilitates the first time to ambulation in critically ill patients with severe muscle weakness in the ICU.