A Comprehensive Guide to Intensive Care Units

Intensive care refers to specialized medical treatment that is provided to patients who are suffering from acute illnesses and need critical medical care. An intensive care unit (ICU) offers critical care and life support to those patients who:-

  • Need close monitoring
  • Suffer from lung issues
  • Deal with severe cardiac issues
  • Have been exposed to serious infections

ICU Equipment

Depending on the speciality of a particular healthcare centre, the equipment of ICU may be designed to provide care to patients with various conditions or to offer specialized care to patients with specific conditions. Following are some of the basic types of equipment present in an ICU:-

  • Monitors
    Patients who are critically ill require close monitoring. The monitor present in the ICU displays a patient’s vital signs including heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, etc. The monitors are placed at the bedside on the main unit desk.
  • Ventilators
    A Ventilator, also referred to as a ‘Breathing Machine’, is a machine that supports breathing and active functionality of the lungs. It pushes air into the lungs via a tube that is inserted into the windpipe (trachea), or by attaching a tightly fitted mask to the face.
  • IV Pumps
    Medications and treatments provided to the patients in the ICU are directly inserted into the bloodstream through a intravenous catheter (IV). These medications can be given by the doctors or nurses using a programmable IC pump.
  • Dialysis
    A Dialysis machine, also known as the ‘Artificial Kidney’, is used to take over the functioning of failed kidneys and remove the fluid waste and harmful substances from the blood. To remove the blood, doctors use a special type of IV that is inserted into a large vein of the neck or groin. The blood that flows out of the IV gets filtered in the dialysis machine, and then returned to the body. While a Dialysis supports the kidney’s function, it doesn’t help in healing injuries.
  • Feeding Tubes
    Feeding tubes are used to give nutrition and fluid to the patients who are unable to eat. Typically, the tube is inserted into the stomach through the nose but in some cases, feeding tubes are directly inserted into the stomach through the skin.

What to Expect When Visiting a Patient in ICU?

ICU administrators have laid down special guidelines for visitors. Usually, visitors are not allowed to meet patients in the ICU in order to prevent the chances of an external infection. Even when visitors are allowed in some circumstances, they must comply with the safety, hygiene, and security protocols of the hospital.

Visiting a patient in the ICU, especially for the first time can be intimidating. The patients might be connected to a number of machines and drips. Additionally, they may also appear different from what they normally look, as the fluid given to the patients in order to keep them hydrated might make them bloating, and there might be bruising due to the injections and tubes.

It is normal for visitors to feel helpless when visiting patients for the first time and they may want to gather every information regarding the patient’s condition and recovery, as soon as possible. In such a case, they can direct their queries to the ICU staff and get their questions answered. While there is not much that visitors can do for the patient admitted in an ICU, their understanding of the situation and support can have a positive impact. In fact studies have revealed that patients show signs of stability like reduced blood pressure, heart rate, etc. when visited by their loved ones. 

Myth Associated with ICU

It is a common myth amongst people that patients admitted into the intensive care unit are on the verge of dying. An ICU is designed to provide critical care to patients who require external aid to support various functions of the body. Not everyone in ICU ends up losing their lives. In fact according to research, over half of the patients in ICU have an increasingly lower risk of dying during their stay at the hospital.

Providing Intensive Care to Support Life

ICU is one of the most critically operating areas of a hospital. Every ICU has a different environment that reflects the special medical and surgical procedure that it caters to. While shifting a patient to an ICU is imperative in a life-threatening situation, it also makes them vulnerable to infections and other health conditions. Therefore, healthcare practitioners toil to ensure that their patients stay at the ICU is kept at minimal possibility and they are discharged at the earliest possible.

Dr. Rishab Sharma

Dr. Rishab Sharma MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine) He is associated with Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur. Dr. Rishab has wide experience in managing a variety of diseases, as well as managing critical care units in large government and corporate hospitals.

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