Pioneering exercise for ventilator patients

New technique means previously bed-bound patients can walk while still on breathing apparatus

Monday 9th September 2019

Patients on ventilators who were previously bed-bound are now being helped to get ‘vital’ exercise by a team of physiotherapists.

Historically, movement for people in Intensive Care Units (ICU) with breathing difficulties is restricted while they are on the breathing apparatus.

A team of physiotherapist and nurses at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, near Glasgow, have developed a way of moving the patient so they can walk while still on the ventilator.

Dundee woman Louise Robbie, aged 21, was the first person to benefit from the new physio technique.

Her mother Aileen said: “She’s always been very determined, you could see that when she was walking around the ward.

“It was really good to see her up and about again, we’re really thankful to all the staff at the Golden Jubilee for pushing to get her up and out of bed, it’s their determination that keeps us positive.”

Being confined to bed can lead to problems such as muscles weakening, weight loss and restricted breathing ability.

Ross Marscheider, a senior physiotherapist who led the new approach, said: “We have mobilised a patient on a ventilator for the very first time in this unit and it is great news for patients.

“People who require the use of a ventilator are often too ill to do any form of exercise, or even normal day-to-day activities.

“So for Louise’s family to see her up and about on her feet, is great from a psychological point of view.”

Philip Henderson, a registrar who helped care for Louise, added: “Being able to get up and breathe a bit better while she’s mobilising around the ward will help Louise move forward and hopefully help get the breathing tube out a bit quicker.

“The introduction of a new technique like this helps us to deliver person-centred care for people who are extremely ill and gives us the ability to provide the patient with much-needed exercise which aids their recovery.”