Critical care helps people with life-threatening injuries and illnesses. It might treat problems such as complications from surgery, accidents, infections, and severe breathing problems. It involves close, constant attention by a team of specially-trained health care providers. Critical care usually takes place in an intensive care unit (ICU) or trauma center.
Monitors, intravenous (IV) tubes, feeding tubes, catheters, breathing machines, and other equipment are common in critical care units. They can keep a person alive, but can also increase the risk of infection.
Many patients in critical care recover, but some die. Having advance directives in place is important. They help health care providers and family members make end-of-life decisions if you are not able to make them.
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.