ICU - Intensive Care Unit
Intensive care refers to specialized treatment that is needed for patients with server health issues or injuries that are life-threatening. An Intensive care Unit (ICU) provides critical care and life support for the really upset and injured patients.
What is an ICU?
An ICU is also known as ITU (intensive therapy unit) or Critical care unit (CCU). A patient who is not in an emergency case will need a doctor's reference to being admitted to an ICU. In the Intensive Care Unit, all the staff, doctors, physicians are highly trained and specialized in caring and treating critical patients. ICU is also used for general ward patients for the medical equipment not available anywhere else in the hospital. Patients who need to be monitored after a critical surgery are also shifted from operation theatre to ICU for special care.
History of ICU
In 1854, Florence Nightingale took care of the soldiers who were separated due to their critical conditions; she successfully decreased the mortality rates by nearly 38%. This is because of her sense of intensive care conditions in the hospital. Later, In 1950, Peter Safar established the life support system and special care for the patients. In 1960, the first Intensive Care Unit was established for cardiac patients in the United States of America.
What is the need for Intensive Care Unit?
The ICU is one of the very important needs of medical care. It is needed for all those patients who are suffering from one of the following reasons:
- The one who is facing difficulties by more than one organ.
- The one who is seriously ill and needs close monitoring by the doctor or medical staff.
- Someone who went through a serious accident and has head injuries or severe injuries somewhere in your body. Maybe a serious fall or severe burn injuries.
- A really serious short-term condition like a heart attack or heat stroke.
- A serious infection like pneumonia or severe sepsis.
- The one who needs a major surgery (they are specially kept for measuring the recovery or just for security if there may be any complication later)
Special types of ICU
These are the special types of the Intensive Care Unit, such as;
- Coronary care unit: These are for cardiac patients, for example, patients suffering from myocardial infarction.
- Critical care unit: This is for the patients who need special care or are in critical condition.
- Geriatric intensive care unit: A special intensive care ward for the senior age seriously ill or on the bed patients.
- High Dependency unit: This is a special kind of ward for the intermediate patients who are not on the death bed or critical but need special care which might not available in the general ward.
- Isolation intensive care unit: Some patients are suffering from a serious disease that may be contagious or may infect others, so they are kept in special wards with isolation service and treated by special nurses and staff who are not treating general wards patients.
- Mobile intensive care unit: These are the special kind of ambulances for the patients who need a life support system or help when transferred from one place to another or one hospital to another. These are also used to bring patients with critical conditions to hospitals.
- Neonatal intensive care unit: Few patients face complications during the process of birth, and these patients stay in hospital after the birth. It may be the child or the mother, but few patients face problems and need supports, so they are kept in this ward until they recover or can be stable to be shifted to the general ward.
- The neurological intensive care unit: Most of the patients who suffer from brain-related complications require special care, for example, neurological patients are kept in this ICU until they are not very stable and need special care or sometimes even the life support system. All the staff, even the nurses, have special certifications and experience of working in this ward.
- Pediatric intensive care unit: This unit is for sick children who mostly suffer from asthma, influenza, diabetic ketoacidosis, or some kind of traumatic brain surgery. Most of them are facing life-threatening diseases and are in critical conditions. All the intensive pediatric cases are treated in this ward. The children with special cardiac surgeries or having contagious heart disease are also treated here.
- Post-anesthesia care unit: This is the ward where patients are kept for a really short time and the patients who are too unstable and need special care. These patients are those who are kept here for stabilization following surgery or anesthesia.
- Psychiatric intensive care unit: Some patients who may harm themselves or need someone to keep an eye on them permanently are treated in this ward. These wards are continuously monitored and have a special staff appointed to take care of these patients.
- Surgical intensive care unit: This is a special kind of ward chosen for the patients who need surgery or are shifted here after surgery. This ward is looked after by the surgeons and staff selected by them, and this makes these wards different from other ICUs.
- Trauma intensive care unit: These are the wards specially prepared for patients suffering from some kind of trauma or major trauma. This ward has a very well-prepared team to handle people suffering from trauma or any kind of such complications.
What are the types of equipment and facilities in an ICU?
In an Intensive Care Unit, there are a number of facilities that aren't in any other ward of the hospital. There are special ICU wards in every hospital in which there is a nurse for every 1 or 2 patients. Apart from that, every doctor or specialist takes a round of an ICU during their duty period and takes care if any patients need any help or facing any issue and want support. Except for these, there is some special equipment in the ICU ward, which are as follow;
- A ventilator
This is a special kind of machine that helps as a life support system; it is used for persons who face difficulty breathing. In this equipment, a tube is placed inside the nose or mouth or through a small cut in the throat.
- Monitoring Equipment
There is special monitoring equipment used to monitor some important organ functioning, for example, your heartbeat or blood pressure or the oxygen rate or levels in the blood.
- Four lines and pumps
These are tubes that are inserted in the veins to supply the nutrients, solutions, and medications when a person can't take them by themselves.
- Feeding tubes
These tubes are used to feed a person when they can't eat by themselves. These tubes are placed in the stomach, nose, and veins to supply all the nutrients of food ingratiates.
- Drains and catheters
Drains are used to eliminate any buildup of fluid or blood from the body, and catheters are used to remove the urine. They are the small thin pipes that are inserted into bladders to drain the pee.
- Painkillers or sedatives
These are used to decrease the pains as many types of equipment in ICU can be uncomfortable for the patients, and they may need painkillers or sedatives.
- Syringe pipe
These are the pipes for medications that are used to inject something inside the patient's body.
- Oxygen cylinder
These are used when a patient is not able to breathe by themselves or has a very low level of oxygen inside their body.
- Suction machines
These machines are used to remove a person's saliva, vomit, mucus, etc., which may increase infection near the patient's bed and may cause infection.
- Infusion pipes
Infusions pumps are also known as drips. They are helpful to create a flow of medications in the human body.
Besides the above-mentioned equipment, there are many other types of equipment in different hospitals according to their needs and the disease they treat.
Who can visit an intensive care unit?
An ICU isn't a very decent experience neither for the patient nor for their loving ones, but there are few rules an individual should know before they plan to visit an intensive care unit. Their rules may vary from hospital to hospital, but the most similar ones are as follows;
- The time to visit an ICU can be flexible; it's good to check the time before visiting the ICU.
- There must be a limited number of visitors nearby the bed of the patients.
- To keep you away from the infection, you may be asked to clean your hands or body while entering or leaving the unit. You should be asked not to visit if you are ill.
- You should not bring things like flowers or junk food to the hospital.
- The person you are visiting may be in miserable conditions, and they may have swallowed or had injuries that may be discomforting. This can upset you, but the hospital management takes care of this.
- There may be equipment about which you don't know anything, but you can ask the hospital management if you like to know.
- There may be the sound of alarms and beeps, which are used in monitoring the patients.
- You are free to use a torch and talk to the person because they tend to recognize the familiar voices even if they don't respond.
- You can bring things that can comfort the patients, but it's better to ask staff before bringing the things.
- You are free to read a newspaper or talk about your day or spend time with them as much as you can or free to ask anything from the hospital management but advised not to disturb or interrupt their work.
These situations of an ICU may be discomforting to normal people, and you shouldn't visit the Intensive Care Unit if you are not able to handle them as it may interfere the comfort and treatment of the patient.
How to get admission to an ICU?
If you are thinking of admitting your loved one to ICU for special care, let me tell you that it may be a wrong decision if your patient is not seriously ill or injured. The intensive care unit is a ward with very limited space and really expensive costs. So, only critical ill or injured patients should be admitted to this ward. Apart from this, these are the main points that matter before admitting someone to an ICU;
- What are the numbers of available beds, experienced nurses, staff in the ICU, and how much Equipment is available for the treatment?
- What are the conditions of the patient who is being referred to an ICU
- What are the age, issues, and the facilities needed for the patients as this is required to know if the required services are available in the hospital or not before admitting the patient.
- It is important to know what kind of background the patient belongs from because the quality of life after discharge matters for treatment.
The most important part to remember is that the Intensive Care Unit is a really expensive service, so obviously, the money matters; this may also be a con for this service, and many hospitals and governments are trying hard to make it easy, but don't have much progress in it. The best thing you can do is first take all the information about the hospital and ICU before getting to any hospital and be careful while choosing a hospital's ICU.
As the service of ICU varies from one hospital to another or one country to another so these are just a few universal facts about the ICU; there is no compulsion as the hospital may have different facts or rules in many hospitals. So, depending upon what services you want or what facilities they have, but you are free to ask your questions from the hospital management. Still, in many cases, situations may be of emergency where an ICU is needed, and the best decision at that time is to reach the nearest hospital as soon as possible.