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: 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: 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: 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: 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...

Article: Monitors

Every bed in the ICU has a monitor that will display what we call the patient's “vital signs”. These include the heart rate and rhythm (or ECG), blood pressure, oxygen levels (or “saturation”), respiratory (or breathing) pattern and fluid status (CVP or “central venous pressure”).The nurses will keep a constant eye on the monitor and will carefully record the vital signs in the patient's charts.The monitor has in built alarms that will tell the...

Article: Ventilator or breathing machine

What is a ventilator? The ventilator is also sometimes called a breathing machine or life support machine. The ventilator is a machine that helps the patient to breathe while they are very ill or too sleepy to breathe by themselves e.g. after a general anaesthetic. How does a ventilator work? The ventilator or breathing machine is connected to the patient via a tubing system and a tube (breathing tube, endotracheal or ET tube) that is inserted into the patient's mouth...