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.
- What to Expect When a Loved One Is Critically Ill (American Association of Critical-Care Nurses)
- Families Like Looser ICU Visitation Policies (01/04/2016, HealthDay)
- Families of Critically Ill Patients Need Extra Support, Too (12/31/2015, HealthDay)
Treatments and Therapies
- Arterial Catheterization (American Thoracic Society) - PDF
- Chest tube insertion - slideshow Available in Spanish
- Chest Tube Thoracostomy (American Thoracic Society) - PDF
- Tracheostomy (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
- Tracheostomy - slideshow Available in Spanish
- What Is a Ventilator? (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: End-of-Life Care Intensity for Physicians, Lawyers, and the General Population.
- Article: Retrospective Case Reviews of Adult Inpatient Falls in the Acute...
- Article: Disappointing Success of Electrical Cardioversion for New-Onset Atrial Fibrillation in...
- Critical Care -- see more articles
- Critical care - children -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Common Diagnoses in the NICU (Nemours Foundation)
- Common NICU Equipment (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
- Common Parent Reactions to the NICU (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Managing Home Health Care (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- What Is a Pediatric Critical Care Specialist? (American Academy of Pediatrics) - PDF
- When Your Baby's in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- When Your Child's in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Central venous catheter - dressing change Available in Spanish
- Central venous catheter - flushing Available in Spanish
- Peripherally inserted central catheter - dressing change Available in Spanish
- Peripherally inserted central catheter - flushing Available in Spanish
- Peripherally inserted central catheter - insertion Available in Spanish