Intensive care medicine or critical care medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and management of life-threatening conditions requiring sophisticated organ support and invasive monitoring.
Intensive care medicine or critical care medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and management of life-threatening conditions requiring sophisticated organ support and invasive monitoring.
Patients requiring intensive care may require support for instability (hypertension/hypotension), airway or respiratory compromise (such as ventilator support), acute renal failure, potentially lethal cardiac arrhythmias, or the cumulative effects of multiple organ failure, more commonly referred to now as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. They may also be admitted for intensive/invasive monitoring, such as the crucial hours after major surgery when deemed too unstable to transfer to a less intensively monitored unit.
Intensive care is usually only offered to those whose condition is potentially reversible and who have a good chance of surviving with intensive care support. A prime requisite for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) is that the underlying condition can be overcome.
In general, it is the most expensive, technologically advanced and resource-intensive area of medical care.
Intensive care usually takes a system by system approach to treatment, rather than the SOAP (subjective, objective, analysis, plan) approach of high dependency care. The nine key systems (see below) are each considered on an observation-intervention-impression basis to produce a daily plan. As well as the key systems, intensive care treatment raises other issues including psychological health, pressure points, mobilisation and physiotherapy, and secondary infections.
The nine key IC systems are (alphabetically): cardiovascular system, central nervous system, endocrine system, gastro-intestinal tract (and nutritional condition), hematology, microbiology (including sepsis status), peripheries (and skin), renal (and metabolic), and respiratory system.
The provision of intensive care is, in general, administered in a specialized unit of a hospital called the intensive care unit (ICU) or critical care unit (CCU). Many hospitals also have designated intensive care areas for certain specialities of medicine, such as the coronary intensive care unit (CCU or sometimes CICU) for heart disease, medical intensive care unit (MICU), surgical intensive care unit (SICU), pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), neuroscience critical care unit (NCCU), overnight intensive-recovery (OIR), shock/trauma intensive-care unit (STICU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and other units as dictated by the needs and available resources of each hospital. The naming is not rigidly standardized.
Common equipment in an intensive care unit includes mechanical ventilation to assist breathing through an endotracheal tube or a tracheotomy; hemofiltration equipment for acute renal failure; monitoring equipment; intravenous lines for drug infusions fluids or total parenteral nutrition, nasogastric tubes, suction pumps, drains and catheters; and a wide array of drugs including inotropes, sedatives, broad spectrum antibiotics and analgesics.
Critical care medicine is a relatively new but increasingly important medical specialty. Physicians with training in critical care medicine are referred to as intensivists.