Chemically paralyzed in the ICU? What a nurse needs to know.

#heysean… my patient is chemically paralyzed on the ventilator. What do I need to know?

In the ICU we often care for some really sick patients that require chemically induced paralysis. We will purposely paralyze them with medication in order to stabilize or improve their condition. For example, research has shown that in severe ARDS chemical paralysis may improve outcomes (limited info).

The term paralyze or paralysis can be taken out of context, so keep in mind this is a response to a medication not that the medical team is intentionally causing harm (or nervous system damage).

I answer another #heysean question from the tribe.

I give you a couple of things to think about:

  • Monitoring
  • Sedation
  • GI tract
  • Skin breakdown


How do you monitor a patient who is on a continuous chemical paralytic medication? You have 2 options. The TOF peripheral nerve stimulator and/or the BIS monitor.


The 1st rule of chemical paralysis is sedation. Sedate first, then induce paralysis. Period. No exceptions.

GI tract:

Contrary to popular belief, just because we have used a chemical paralytic medication, does not mean the GI tract is not working.

Skin Breakdown:

Be mindful of breakdown. Remember, your patient will not be able to ‘wiggle’ around when their backside or elbow have been fixed in one position for hours at a time. They can’t move voluntarily.


Chemical paralysis is an advanced medical therapy that requires additional education and training from ALL members of the medical team who will help manage the patient. It’s a high-risk intervention that is often used because of the severity of illness. Stay up to date so that you can continue to advocate for you patient and provide optimum care.

If you found this valuable, maybe you’ll buy me a cup of coffee? know how much I love coffee. 

Check out all my other videos on my YouTube channel. Almost 500 free videos

**Follow me on Instagram: @seanpdent**Let’s continue the conversation:**Have a question?

The views and opinions expressed on this website, videos or posts on this channel are that of myself and not of any educational institution. In compliance with HIPAA and to ensure patient privacy, all patient identifiers in all content have been deleted and/or altered. The views expressed on this website and/or in the videos on this channel are personal opinions only, not intended as medical advice. The information I present is for general knowledge purposes only. 

*may contain affiliate links*   

Find all of my recommended products and the gear I used in my videos at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.