Equipment

The Intensive Care Unit can be a very strange and sometimes overwhelming place. It can be difficult for patients and families to make sense of what is going on, not only in terms of their illness, but also in terms of the equipment we use and the types of treatments we give and why. The nurse who is looking after you or your loved one will be happy to explain if you ask, although some family members feel that they don't like to "bother" her or him. In this section, we have provided easy to understand descriptions of some of the most commonly used equipment and treatments in Intensive Care and why they are used.

 

 

 

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Article: Alarms

The ICU is more noisy than a general hospital ward largely because of the operation of the equipment, often beeping or sounding an alarm. If you do hear an alarm it doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong, just that there’s something the staff need to be aware of. The nurses will be able to explain the equipment and noises to you should you have concerns about the alarms.

Article: Blood pressure monitoring

We measure patients' blood pressure in Intensive Care using either a blood pressure cuff (like the one in a GP's practice) or using a device inserted directly into an artery (arterial line), usually the wrist or groin. An arterial line lets us monitor the patient's blood pressure accurately and continuously-helpsing us to identify problems quickly. We can also take blood samples (arterial blood gas samples) which tell us how much oxygen is in the patient's blood....

Article: Breathing tubes

Breathing tubes Many of the patients in the intensive care unit will need support with their breathing. This may involve passing a plastic breathing tube into the windpipe. There are two types of breathing tubes: Endotracheal (ET) tube: This is a plastic tube placed through the patient’s mouth or sometimes through their nose into the windpipe (trachea). Most patients will need sedation to keep them comfortable while this breathing tube is in place. Tracheostomy tube: This is a...

Article: Catheter (urinary)

Almost every patient in the Intensive care Unit will have a (urinary) catheter during their stay. What is a catheter? It is a small tube that drains urine directly from the patient's bladder into a clear drainage bag. The drainage bag is usually hung by the side of the bed, where it can be easily seen by the nurse.  Why are they used in Intensive Care? A urinary catheter is a flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine. This is essential to drain the bladder...

Article: CPAP

What is CPAP? (pronounced see pap) CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is another way in which we can help support patients with their breathing. It involves putting a tight fitting mask over the patient's nose and mouth. The mask needs to be tight so that we can deliver extra support using air and oxygen at varying pressures.A transparent hood that fits over the head (rather like a large bubble) can also sometimes be used, as patients often find this much...

Article: Feeding Tubes

Feeding in the intensive care It’s very important for patients in the intensive care unit to maintain an adequate nutrition and calorie intake in order to fight the infection and aid recovery after prolonged illness, so while they are unable to eat enough normally, we use tube feeding. There are several feeding tubes that may be used in the ICU: Nasogastric tube - A nasogastric tube is the most common type of feeding tube used.  These are long thin tubes, placed by a nurse or the...

Article: Heart monitor (ECG)

What does the heart monitor or ECG do? Heart or ECG (electrocardiography) monitors show the electrical activity of the heart. It is monitored using electrodes or “sticky dots” on the chest. Heart or ECG monitoring tells us about the heart rate and heart rhythm (both of which can sometimes be abnormal and require treatment). What is a "12 lead ECG"? In some cases (e.g. if a patient has an irregular heart rhythm or we are worried that they may be...

Article: ICP monitoring

What is intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring? Intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring measures the pressure inside a patient's head, using a pressure monitor inserted through the skull. There are various reasons why this procedure may be needed, for instance, after a head injury or surgery to the brain. The doctors will explain why your relative needs ICP monitoring and for how long it may be needed. Monitoring may be needed for several days. ICP monitoring tends to be carried out...

Article: Infusion pumps

Infusion pumps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they all do the same thing; they allow us to accurately control the amount of fluids, medication or liquid food we give to the patient. The nurse will normally check each infusion pump every hour to make sure that the correct amount of fluids, medication or liquid food has been given.

Article: Kidney machine or "filter"

What is a kidney machine or filter? A kidney machine or filter is a form of kidney or renal support.It is also known as Continuous Veno Venous Haemofiltration (CVVH). We prefer to use this form of support in Intensive Care as it is gentler on the heart and circulation than other forms of kidney or renal support. What is a kidney machine or filter used for? The filter or kidney machine is a machine that can temporarily take over the work of the kidneys when they are...