What is the ICU?

Prof. Deborah Hunt
Critical Care Nursing Specialist

ICU is an abbreviation for Intensive Care Unit. Patients are admitted to an Intensive Care Unit when they are critically ill and need to be closely monitored by a critical care team. Critical Care Nurses are specially trained to provide the specialized nursing care that is required of patients in this setting. Some hospitals have several ICU's and each one is highly specialized. These include CCU (Cardiac Care Unit), CTICU (Cardiothoracic Critical Care Unit), and SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit).

The ICU is the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital. The ICU is a place in the hospital for people who are very sick. It has all the medical equipment necessary to help people. Doctors and nurses make sure people in the ICU are getting all the care they need.

The intensive care unit (ICU) is where seriously ill patients are cared for in a hospital setting. The intensive care team is specially trained to manage patients with complex, life-threatening conditions that require very close and constant attention. Conditions that are treated in an intensive care unit include serious infections, major traumas, complex medical conditions and severe breathing issues.

Deb Cordes
Deb Cordes on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit. It is also sometimes called the critical care unit. It is an area of the hospital that cares for patients who are very ill. The nurses who work in the ICU receive special training on how to take care of patients who are very ill.

Dr. Cathy Provins-Churbock, PhD
Critical Care Medicine Specialist

An ICU, or Intensive Care Unit, is the same as a Critical Care Unit and even a Cardiac Care Unit. The later is an ICU for cardiac patients. All Intensive or critical care areas are areas within an acute care hospital or sometimes subacute or rehab facilities where patients are admitted when they need frequent and intensive monitoring by specially trained nursing and physician staff. Patients in these areas are often on intravenous (IV) medications and are receiving other life saving treatments. These higher patient requirements are why ICU nurses have fewer patients to care for than those on a general medical floor.

With a spinal cord injury, most people are taken to an emergency room or trauma unit. After being seen by a trauma doctor, a transfer is usually made to the intensive care unit (ICU). The intensive care unit provides 24 hour a day monitoring and treatment of potentially life-threatening problems that may happen with a traumatic spinal cord injury.

Complications that can arise include sudden changes in blood pressure, poor respiration or respiratory failure, heart instability, bowel blockages, and kidney failure. While being treated in the intensive care unit, patients are provided with proper medications and medical treatments to prevent blood clots associated with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. A team of trauma specialists will evaluate and treat the patient in the ICU as they work to ward off life threatening complications and identify and treat newly discovered injuries.

The ICU or intensive care unit is an area in the hospital which provides the highest level of care and is dedicated to the sickest and highest acuity patients. ICU patients often require intensive nursing resources with nurse to patient ratios typically 1 to 2. ICUs also support patients with life support, which can include ventilators to assist with breathing, and critical care medications to assist with maintaining blood pressure and heart rates. Some hospitals have ICUs dedicated to specific patient populations, e.g. cardiac ICU, neurologic ICU, surgical ICU, pediatric ICU, and neo-natal ICU.

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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.