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Animal-assisted intervention in the ICU: a tool for humanization

By Megan M. Hosey, Janice Jaskluski, Stephen T. Wegener, Linda L. Chlan, Dale M. Needham

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The combination of an aging population and advances in critical care medicine is resulting in a growing number of survivors of critical illness [1]. Survivors’ descriptions of their stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) are frequently filled with traumatic events, and include experiences of confusion, anxiety, sleeplessness, pain, and loneliness [23]. Sedative and anxiolytic medications administered to manage patient symptoms are associated with delirium and worse physical and mental health outcomes [4]. Therefore, there is growing interest in the use of non-pharmacologic interventions and in creating a more humanized environment in the ICU for patients and their families [5]. Such efforts have included a focus on understanding the critically ill patient as an individual and providing comprehensive medical, psychological, and rehabilitation care [678]. This publication aims to: 1) suggest a conceptual model for the use of non-pharmacologic interventions to reduce suffering and promote recovery in a more humanized ICU environment; 2) describe animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as an exemplar of a non-pharmacologic intervention and provide a conceptual model for the utility of this intervention; and 3) discuss the basic principles for introducing a non-pharmacologic intervention program in the ICU.


Katie Osborn

Publication Title Critical Care
Volume 22
Issue 22
ISBN/ISSN 1364-8535
Publisher BioMed Central
DOI 10.1186/s13054-018-1946-8
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Animal roles
  3. Hospitals
  4. Intensive care units
  5. open access
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Service animals
  8. therapy animals
  1. open access