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*UPDATED* Hospital visiting changes, home testing kits, Vaccine info, general info and guidance for public, NHSGGC staff, and community-based services.

Life after Intensive Care

I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit – What now?

Patients with the most severe symptoms of coronavirus may spend time in the Hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This is a traumatic and scary time for both patients and their families. It can leave some people with symptoms of Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, not wanting to leave the house, avoiding friends, poor memory and sleep, having pain and feeling generally weak.
• Remember your GP is your main source of help and advice.
• Please try to attend any hospital appointments as they will help improve your health.
• Getting enough sleep, eating well and taking sensible amounts of exercise can all help with your recovery (link to well-being section).

Physical changes

When you are very unwell in ICU, the nerves and muscles are also affected. This can lead to something called ICU-acquired weakness (ICUAW). You might have noticed that your thigh and arm muscles are smaller than they were before you went to ICU. You might still feel weak despite having been home for a while. This is a common problem. It occurs in up to half of the patients who stay in the ICU for at least one week. Some people find that it may take more than a year to fully recover from this weakness.

This weakness can make every day activities difficult. It is easy to get frustrated - many people feel ‘the mind is willing but the body won’t follow’.

Pacing is important. You wouldn’t take all your medication for the week in one day and the same is true for exercise. You must do little and often rather than doing everything in one day and then being too tired the rest of the week.

Find practical tips on pacing and how to conserve energy HERE

What if I have pain?

Pain is a common problem for many patients after ICU. It occurs in many areas of your body and has many different causes. These problems can improve over many months but it is important you discuss your pain with your GP. This is very important if pain is stopping you from building your muscles back up. Some people (but not all), feel the pain has gone away completely a year after leaving hospital.

Changes in mood and Mental Health

Many people have little or no memory of their time in ICU and this is often due to something called delirium. Delirium occurs when you are very unwell and the brain can’t lay down memories as normal. This can lead to confusion, unusual thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares. These are common emotional responses after being in ICU. People can experience traumatic stress and it can take time to process this. These symptoms often improve over time and talking to other people can be useful. There are lots of other ways to find help and don’t forget, your GP is there to help you.

Adapted from InS:PIRE leaflet


Additional Resources:

Critical Care Recovery information, advice and support on recovery after Intensive Care.

ICU Steps  Intensive Care Patient support charity provides information and advice for patients and families after ICU admission 


Websites where you can access self help information:

NHSGGC Heads up for good mental health 

South Glasgow Wellbeing Services  

Scottish Association for Mental Health 


Emotional support:

The Samaritans Telephone: 116 123 

Breathing Space Telephone: 0800 83 85 87 

NHSGGC Support and Information Service is here to support people whilst in hospital and when they go home with a wide range of topics. From health, lifestyle and well-being to money worries, accessing services including carers support and everything in between. You can find the kiosks on the ground floor in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Royal Hospital for Children, New Stobhill Hospital and the New Victoria Hospital.

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Last Updated: 22 September 2020