Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) and Post-Intensive Care Syndrome-Family (PICS-F)

Houston Methodist Critical Care - ICU

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) is a condition affecting people recovering from critical illnesses that includes physical, mental and emotional symptoms that impact their quality of life. Some of the individuals who may be affected by PICS include:


  • Patients who have been critically ill in the ICU
  • Patients with pre-existing health conditions
  • Patients on prolonged mechanical ventilation
  • Patients who experience delirium in the ICU
  • Older patients
  • Family caregivers
  • Health care professionals


Survivors of critical illnesses aren’t the only ones who can be affected. Loved ones supporting those recovering from critical illnesses can also develop some of the same mental and psychological symptoms of PICS, called post-intensive care syndrome-family, or PICS-F.

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) Symptoms  

Signs and symptoms of PICS can develop during an ICU stay and may persist after going home. Symptoms can last for weeks, months or even years.

Physical Symptoms

  • Balance issues
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Breathing issues

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble with complex decision-making
  • Memory issues
  • Slower mental processing
  • Difficulty with carrying out tasks 

Mental Health Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep problems

PICS-F Symptoms 

Caregivers may experience symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Stress
  • Sleep Problems

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) Causes

PICS is a complex condition that can result from a combination of stressors the body can undergo when fighting against critical illness or injury during a patient's stay in an intensive care unit (ICU). While the exact causes of PICS are not fully understood, contributing factors can include: 


  • Critical illness
  • Invasive medical interventions
  • Sedation and medications
  • Delirium
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Immobility 
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Psychological stress
  • Extended ICU stay
  • Age 
  • Preexisting conditions

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) Diagnosis

PICS is a complex condition, and not all individuals treated in the ICU will develop PICS. The diagnosis of PICS is often based on someone having persistent symptoms after being discharged from the ICU and excluding other potential causes.


To be diagnosed with PICS, critical care patients will undergo a comprehensive assessment by health care professionals, including physical, functional and mental health assessments, as well as any additional diagnostic testing.

Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) Treatments

Once diagnosed, treatment and management strategies for PICS may involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, counseling or therapy for psychological symptoms, and ongoing medical monitoring and support. The goal is to address the specific needs of each patient and improve their overall quality of life post-ICU.


Clinic appointments are available for current Houston Methodist patients who have experienced critical illness/injury and are eligible for follow-up as determined by the critical care recovery team.

Additional Resources

Treatment Locations