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Where will my child go for critical care treatment?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrics
Children will go to an intensive care unit, or ICU, for critical care treatment. Newborns will go to a Neonatal ICU (NICU) and older children will likely go to a Pediatric ICU (PICU). If your child is a newborn with a heart problem, they will likely go to a Cardiac ICU (CICU). If the hospital does not have a cardiac ICU and heart surgery is needed, the baby will likely stay in the Neonatal ICU until the surgery and then be transferred to the Pediatric ICU after the surgery.
Alvin Jeffery
Pediatric Nursing

Critical care treatment is typically best provided in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

Depending on the illness/injury that occurs, treatment may begin in an Emergency Department, but this is mainly done to diagnosis the problem and stabilize any life-threatening conditions. All Emergency Departments can accept both children and adults; however, the Emergency Departments found in a pediatric/children's hospital focus primarily on children. 

After the Emergency Department has managed any life-threatening illnesses/injuries, if critical care treatment is required, the child will be transferred to an ICU. Ideally, children will move to a Pediatric ICU. If it is a children's hospital, there may be two types of ICU's...a PICU (Pediatric ICU) and a CICU (Cardiac ICU). Because children with heart problems require very specialized care, a separate unit for cardiac care has been created in many children's hospitals where the nurses and doctors have received additional, specialized training in this area. If not heart condition is present, the PICU will be the best place for your child. 

If your child is less than a week old or born prematurely, the NICU (Neonatal ICU) may be the best place for him/her. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.