- What is critical care medicine?
Critical care medicine is the healthcare specialty that cares for patients with acute, life-threatening illness or injury. Nearly 80 percent of all Americans will experience a critical illness or injury, either as the patient, family member or friend of a patient.
Critical care can be provided wherever life is threatened – at the scene of an accident, in an ambulance or med-evac helicopter, in a hospital trauma center or emergency room, or in the operating room. Most critical care today, however, is delivered in highly specialized intensive care units (ICUs) and trauma centers.
Multidisciplinary teams of highly experienced physicians, nurses, respiratory care technicians, pharmacists, dieticians and other allied health professionals provide comprehensive care for these critically ill patients. This team uses their unique expertise, ability to interpret important therapeutic information, access to highly sophisticated equipment, and the services of support personnel to provide care that leads to the best outcome for the patient.
Patients are rarely admitted directly to the critical care unit. Rather, they are usually admitted from the emergency room, operating room or hospital rooms where they are first given care and stabilized. The continuum of critical care begins at the moment of illness or injury and continues throughout the patient’s hospitalization, treatment and subsequent recovery.
- What kinds of illness and injury usually require critical care?
Typical examples of critical illness include heart attack, pneumonia, poisoning, complex or prolonged surgery, surgical complications, premature birth, and stroke. Critical care also includes trauma care – care of the severely injured – from any cause.
- What is the difference between critical care and emergency medicine?
Critical care refers exclusively to the treatment of patients who suffer from life-threatening conditions. Emergency room physicians and nurses treat patients who suffer from relatively minor emergencies (sprained ankles, broken arms) to those with major problems including heart attack, knife or gunshot wounds or drug overdoses. In the Emergency Department, physicians and nurses stabilize patients and transfer them to the ICU for further treatment. The long-term management of critically ill and injured patients is provided by critical care professionals in the ICU.
- What is an intensivist?
An intensivist is a specialist physician with additional sub-specialty (fellowship) training, or equivalent qualifications, in critical care medicine. An intensivist directs the care of critically ill patients and works in collaboration with other health care professionals necessary for the care of patients in critical care units.
- How does my family physician fit into the team?
Your family physician is an important link between the critical care team and the patient and family. The family physician has a complete medical history of the patient, is often a trusted confidante of the family and is aware of the patient’s values, attitudes and health care preferences. Critical care teams often work closely with the family physician to determine pre-existing illness, allergies, use of medications, and other factors, which may influence the health of the patient.
- How can I obtain copies of living wills and other documents?
- What is mechanical ventilation?
Mechanical ventilation is the method of using machines to help patients breathe when they are unable to breathe sufficiently on their own. Most often, mechanical ventilation is used for a few days or weeks to help a patient breathe during a serious illness. This type of breathing support is usually done in an intensive care unit.
Sometimes patients still can’t breathe on their own after the acute illness is over, despite efforts to restore spontaneous breathing. Patients may no longer need to be in the ICU but still require mechanical ventilation because of an extended need for the breathing assistance of the ventilator. Other patients may have stable, longer-term (chronic) conditions that make them unable to breathe on their own.
Due to a variety of reasons, including the patient’s quality of life, for the patient who is dependent on a ventilator for breathing assistance, it may be better to receive mechanical ventilation at home or at a non-hospital institution offering specialized nursing and rehabilitation services.
Over time, with professional support, some ventilator-assisted individuals are able to become less dependent on the ventilator and breathe on their own for substantial portions of every day. Other patients may have medical conditions that require 24-hour mechanical ventilation for many months or years, or even for a lifetime.
- About Us
- Anesthesia Specialists
- Patient Guide
- Childbirth and Labor Pain Management
- Pediatric Anesthesia
- Surgery Locations
- Pain Management
- Surgical Anesthesia
- Intensive Care Unit
- Career Opportunities
- Contact Us