Survival and state of health were assessed one year after discharge in 468 children admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). ICU mortality was 7.5%, cumulative hospital mortality 8.3%, and one year mortality 10.5%. An established six domain health status classification was used, comprising sensation, mobility, emotion, cognition, self care, and pain to determine the presence, type, and severity of chronic health impairment. This classification has not been validated for infants, who were therefore excluded. After one year, of the 254 patients eligible for analysis, 80 (31.5%) had no overall health impairment (no affected domains) preceding admission; of these, 11 had died in ICU and 69 were long-term survivors, among whom 45 recovered to perfect health. There was overall health impairment (> or = 1 affected domain) preceding admission in 174 of 254 patients (68.5%). However, after one year, overall state of health was improved or equal to the preadmission state in 164 of 226 survivors (72.6%). In domain-specific health, the proportion improving or remaining unchanged varied from 77.9% (emotional functions) to 89.4% (mobility and pain). Consequently, despite the large number with health impairment before admission, cumulative one year survival was favourable and health status in three quarters of the population was preserved.