Advancing Neuromuscular, Musculoskeletal, & Electrodiagnostic Medicine

Critical Illness Neuropathy

What is Critical Illness Neuropathy?

Critical illness neuropathy is a disease of peripheral nerves, occurring as a complication of severe trauma or infection (critical illness). It develops while patients are in the intensive care unit and it is typically diagnosed by limb weakness and unexplained difficulty in weaning from mechanical ventilation.


What causes Critical Illness Neuropathy?

Currently, the cause of critical illness neuropathy is not known.


How is Critical Illness Neuropathy diagnosed?

The diagnosis is often made by performing a thorough history and examination. Electrophysiological (needle EMG and nerve conduction studies) studies are essential for making an accurate diagnosis and excluding other causes of weakness.


How is Critical Illness Neuropathy treated?

Critical illness neuropathy tends to be more severe in those who have more severe underlying medical problems. In most patients, nerve function begins to improve once major medical issues are resolved. However, those patients with severe neuropathy are unlikely to have full recovery. Most patients with severe critical illness polyneuropathy will need aggressive physical therapy, but may still have residual weakness and numbness. Those with mild forms are more likely to have no residual problems from neuropathy.


More information on Critical Illness Neuropathy

The Neuropathy Association