People who need specific types of care while hospitalized may be put in special care units.
Types of units
Intensive care units (ICUs) are for people who are seriously ill. These people include those who have had a sudden, general malfunction (failure) of an organ, such as the liver, lungs (requiring assistance with breathing), or kidneys (requiring dialysis Dialysis Dialysis is an artificial process for removing waste products and excess fluids from the body, a process that is needed when the kidneys are not functioning properly. There are a number of reasons... read more ). People who are in shock Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition in which blood flow to the organs is low, decreasing delivery of oxygen and thus causing organ damage and sometimes death. Blood pressure is usually low... read more , who have a severe infection, or who have had major surgery are likely to be placed in an ICU. Large hospitals may have a special pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for children. Hospitals may have separate ICUs for different kinds of patients, such as those who have had surgery (surgical ICU), serious injury (trauma ICU), stroke (neurological ICU), or a severe heart attack (cardiac ICU). These different types of ICUs usually have specific monitoring and treatment protocols to support the people who are admitted to these units.
ICUs have equipment to support and constantly monitor vital functions. This equipment includes the following:
Cardiac monitor: a machine that monitors heart rate and rhythm (electrocardiography Electrocardiography Electrocardiography (ECG) is a quick, simple, painless procedure in which the heart’s electrical impulses are amplified and recorded. This record, the electrocardiogram (also known as an ECG)... read more , or ECG), blood pressure, and breathing rate that is connected to people by various lines or wires
Central intravenous (IV) line: a flexible catheter inserted into a vein in the neck, upper chest, or upper thigh to give people medications, fluids, and sometimes nutrients.
Ventilators Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more to help people with breathing and defibrillators Cardioversion-Defibrillation There are many causes of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Some arrhythmias are harmless and do not need treatment. Sometimes arrhythmias stop on their own or with changes in lifestyle,... read more to restore normal heart rhythm
Because people in ICUs require more care than usual, more staff members are available to provide care. Visiting hours and rules for visitors are more restrictive in these units.
Cardiac telemetry units are for people who require cardiac monitoring but are not ill enough to require intensive monitoring in ICUs. The cardiac monitors used in these units usually transmit information wirelessly to make it easier for people to walk around and use the bathroom.
Step-down units (intermediate care units) are for people who are too sick to go to a regular hospital bed but are more stable than people in the ICU. Not all hospitals have these units.
Isolation is used to prevent a person from infecting others. Isolation may be
Complete (when a disorder can be transmitted through the air), requiring anyone who enters the person's room to wear a special safety mask (also called a respirator), face shield, gown, and gloves
Incomplete (when a disorder is transmitted only by contact with the skin, blood, or stool), requiring anyone who enters the person's room to wear a gown and gloves
Small children and people with a weakened immune system should not visit someone with a contagious infection.
Reverse isolation is used to prevent a person from being infected by others. Reverse isolation is needed when a person’s immune system is not functioning well—for example, after bone marrow transplantation Stem Cell Transplantation Stem cell transplantation is the removal of stem cells (undifferentiated cells) from a healthy person and their injection into someone who has a serious blood disorder. (See also Overview of... read more or after receiving chemotherapy Chemotherapy and Other Systemic Cancer Treatments Systemic treatments are those that have effects throughout the body rather than being applied directly to the cancer. Chemotherapy is a form of systemic treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer... read more .
Either type of isolation may involve the following:
The person is placed in a single room.
Anyone who goes into the room must wear the protective equipment described above.
The air in the room may be filtered.
Visitors are usually limited to the immediate family.
People with a contagious infection (even if only a common cold) should not visit people in the hospital, especially someone in reverse isolation.