The Science Behind Liberating ICU Patients and Families


In this plenary session from the 46th Critical Care Congress, E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, FCCM, delivers a talk entitled ABCDE and F Bundle: The Science Behind Liberating ICU Patients and Families.

He describes the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s pain, agitation, and delirium (PAD) guidelines, reviews the epidemiology and risk factors for critical illness brain injury, and introduces the evidence-based ABCDEF bundle and successful quality improvement methodology. Dr. Ely also discusses optimizing culture change to improve patient outcomes.


The plenary was accompanied by the release of Dr. Ely’s late breaking paper, The ABCDEF Bundle: Science and Philosophy of How ICU Liberation Serves Patients and Families.

In the paper, published in the February 2017 issue of Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Ely notes: “One thing most physicians detest is being told what to do or seeing some ‘recipe’ put forth for their patients’ medical care. We know what we do is a professional calling and an art; we are not merely medical providers or technicians. ICU liberation is not meant as a recipe or a ‘protocol’ to be blindly followed.


Quite the opposite. Some of you may, without reading this synthesis, practice up-to-date and seamless ICU care. If so, then the science and philosophy of ICU liberation are yours, and this article will be of help perhaps as a way of “packaging” what you already do. However, having visited many hundreds of ICUs around the world, I have not seen even one (including those in which I am privileged to serve patients and their families as an attending physician) that I think practices these ICU liberation concepts well enough,” Dr. Ely writes.  
He also references the connection between ICU treatment and the Society's THRIVE initiative, noting the importance of continuing to care for patients and families after the ICU. Learn more about THRIVE at





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