To identify risk factors associated with cognitive impairment as assessed by neuropsychologic tests in neurotypical children after critical illness.


For this systematic review, we searched the Cochrane Library, Scopus, PubMed, Ovid, Embase, and CINAHL databases from January 1960 to March 2017.


Included were studies with subjects 3-18 years old at the time of post PICU follow-up evaluation and use of an objective standardized neuropsychologic test with at least one cognitive functioning dimension. Excluded were studies featuring patients with a history of cardiac arrest, traumatic brain injury, or genetic anomalies associated with neurocognitive impairment.


Twelve studies met the sampling criteria and were rated using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale.


Ten studies reported significantly lower scores in at least one cognitive domain as compared to healthy controls or normed population data; seven of these-four case-control and three prospective cohort studies-reported significant lower scores in more than one cognitive domain. Risk factors associated with post critical illness cognitive impairment included younger age at critical illness and/or older age at follow-up, low socioeconomic status, high oxygen requirements, and use of mechanical ventilation, sedation, and pain medications.


Identifying risk factors for poor cognitive outcomes post critical illness may help healthcare teams modify patient risk and/or provide follow-up services to improve long-term cognitive outcomes in high-risk children.

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