Neuromuscular Disorders in Critically Ill Patients: Review and Update

imageNeuromuscular disorders that are diagnosed in the intensive care unit (ICU) usually cause substantial limb weakness and contribute to ventilatory dysfunction. Although some lead to ICU admission, ICU-acquired disorders, mainly critical illness myopathy (CIM) and critical illness polyneuropathy (CIP), are more frequent and are associated with considerable morbidity. Approximately 25% to 45% of patients admitted to the ICU develop CIM, CIP, or both. Their clinical features often overlap; therefore, nerve conduction studies and electromyography are particularly helpful diagnostically, and more sophisticated electrodiagnostic studies and histopathologic evaluation are required in some circumstances. A number of prospective studies have identified risk factors for CIP and CIM, but their limitations often include the inability to separate CIM from CIP. Animal models reveal evidence of a channelopathy in both CIM and CIP, and human studies also identified axonal degeneration in CIP and myosin loss in CIM. Outcomes are variable. They tend to be better with CIM, and some patients have longstanding disabilities. Future studies of well-characterized patients with CIP and CIM should refine our understanding of risk factors, outcomes, and pathogenic mechanisms, leading to better interventions.

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