Did anyone suffer nerve damage while in ICU

I was in ICU for 3 months, two and half years ago, when I was discharged to a general ward I developed numbness in my little finger and half the ring finger in both hands, not wanting to stay in hospital any longer than necessary I never mentioned it until I went to the follow up clinic 3 months later and was told it may have been caused the the drugs I was given and if they did not improve I should see my GP.

Another 3 months past with no improvement and now becoming more painful I went to my GP who referred me to a neurologist, who sent me for a MRI scan and a nerve conductive test which showed I had trapped my ulnar nerve (funny bone) in the joint in my elbow which would require an operation to decompress the nerve which was now causing muscle wastage in my hands.

After 2 operations last year with limited success my hands have improved with no pain now or anymore muscle wastage, but still left with the numbness in the fingers.

While giving a presentation to ICU staff about my experience in ICU, I spoke to a physiotherapist who told me the most likely cause for my trapped nerves was due to the use of a zimmer frame in my weakened state and the severe muscle and weight loss while in ICU something I never considered.

3 Replies

  • Hi Lucky one,

    I came out of ICU mid May after a two week stay including 8 days ventilated. I was initially in hospital for severe pneumonia and then developed resiratory problems.

    Since being out of hospital I have been dealing with a number of side effects including numbness in the whole of my left hand and a slighter numbness in my little finger and half the ring finger of my right hand. I did not have any issues with this whilst in hospital. After the first couple of days at home my hands became very painful with pins and needles particularly at night, causing sleeplesness even though I was taking medication to help me sleep.

    My GP referred me to physio which has mainly concentrated on my left shoulder. This did help a lot and I rarely get pins and needles now but this has been replaced by a numbness and loss of grip. I have just kind of accepted that this must be an ongoing issue that will just take time to resolve.

    I am also attending a weekly exercise group following ICU admission and have found it interesting that quite a few other people have experienced a similar pain/ numbness/ pins and needles in their arms or shoulders.

    Im not sure what the answer is but it is interesting that I am not the only person who is suffering this. It seems a minor thing for me to complain about after the medical issues I had/ have but it effects my life on a day to day basis and is another issue that just stops me feeling normal again.

    Just thought I would share!



  • Hi Peekaboo,

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the problem, I to had a problem with my left shoulder, I had a frozen shoulder but with physio it was much better and have had no more problems with it.

    I have been told that sometimes it is due to positioning while in ICU that can cause the problems to arms and shoulders, something the ICU I was in are looking into to reduce the problem, I was also told by the consultant that done the operation to decompress my ulnar nerve, that the use of crutches or zimmer frames can often cause nerves to be trapped.

    Unfortunately it seems we cannot all recover fully to the way we were, but it seems a small price to pay for a second chance at life.

    Best wishes in your continued recovery.


  • I see patients in the follow up clinic I run and some experience similar things.

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