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Original Research

Functional outcomes in high risk ICU patients in Central Australia: a prospective case series

Submitted: 5 March 2012
Revised: 22 July 2012
Accepted: 5 February 2013
Published: 11 February 2013

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Author(s) : Secombe PJ, Stewart PC, Brown A.

Paul SecombeAlex Brown

Citation: Secombe PJ, Stewart PC, Brown A.  Functional outcomes in high risk ICU patients in Central Australia: a prospective case series. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2013; 13: 2128. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Introduction:  This case series reports the functional outcomes of a prospective group of patients, thought to be at high risk for future morbidity, admitted to a rural intensive care unit (ICU) for a life-threatening illness.
Methods:  This prospective longitudinal observational study conducted between February and August 2009 in the Alice Springs Hospital ICU included patients considered 'high risk', as evidenced by profound physiological derangement. The participants were prospectively recruited when pre-defined criteria were met. Functional outcomes were measured by performance in the six-minute walk test, and the ability to undertake activities of daily living. Persisting morbidity was crudely measured by hospital re-admission rate. Mortality was measured at 6 months.
Results:  Eighteen patients consented to take part in the study. Fourteen were Indigenous, and 14 were medical patients. Six-minute walk distance did not improve between ICU discharge and 6 months, and was significantly below that predicted. Almost all patients achieved scores consistent with full independence in basic activities of daily living. Five achieved scores consistent with independence in domestic activities of daily living. Twelve required at least one re-admission, with half the Indigenous subgroup requiring three or more re-admissions. There were four deaths, all Indigenous patients, and three were homeless.
Conclusion:  This study demonstrates that follow up in this group at 6 months is both feasible and valuable. There is evidence of persisting morbidity, and increased mortality, particularly among Indigenous patients. Further avenues of research are suggested, including the need for a large multi-centre prospective study.

Key words: activities of daily living, adult, Australia, clinical medicine, community medicine, exercise test, follow up studies, intensive care, Northern Territory, recovery of function.

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