Intensive Care Unit or Critical Care Unit

An intensive care unit (ICU), also known as critical care or intensive therapy department, is a specialist ward in a hospital. They provide intensive care (treatment and monitoring) for people in a critically ill or unstable condition.

A person in an ICU needs constant medical attention and support to keep their body functioning. They may be unable to breathe on their own and have multiple organ failure. Patients in ICU are usually connected to intensive care equipment by tubes, wires and cables. This can be quite frightening for patients and relatives. Some of the equipment may help the patient breathe and monitor their heart rate and how fast they breathe. Patients are often in a ‘medically induced coma’ to make them sleep while they get better as some of the equipment can be uncomfortable.

Once a person is able to breathe unaided, they may no longer need to be in intensive care and canbe transferred to a different ward to continue their recovery. Depending on their condition, they will either be transferred to a high dependency unit (HDU), which is one level down from intensive care, or to a general ward. The time it takes to recover varies greatly from person to person. It also depends on things such as age, level of health and fitness, as well as how severe the condition is.

It is often a good idea for family and friends of patients in ICU to take photos and keep a record of what happens there as many patients have poor or no memory of these phase of their treatment, and images and notes can be helpful afterwards.  The AfterTrauma recovery app has a diary function which can be used for this purpose.

For more information about what happens in an ICU, please refer to this link.

ICU Steps provides a lot of resources and a supportive forum for people who have experienced intensive care.