Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

honeypot link

Introduction to the Approach to the Critically Ill Patient


Cherisse Berry

, MD, New York University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Nov 2020| Content last modified Nov 2020
Click here for Patient Education

Critical care medicine specializes in caring for the most seriously ill patients. These patients are best treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) staffed by experienced personnel. Some hospitals maintain separate units for special populations (eg, cardiac, trauma, surgical, neurologic, pediatric, or neonatal patients). ICUs have a high nurse:patient ratio to provide the necessary high intensity of service, including treatment and monitoring of physiologic parameters.

Supportive care for the ICU patient includes provision of adequate nutrition and treatment and prevention of infection, stress ulcers and gastritis, and pulmonary embolism. Because 15 to 25% of patients admitted to ICUs die there, physicians should know how to minimize suffering and help dying patients maintain dignity.

Click here for Patient Education
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: Click here for the Consumer Version
Professionals also read

Test your knowledge

How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver in the Conscious Adult or Child
The Heimlich maneuver should be used only when the airway obstruction is severe and life is endangered. Is it important NOT to interfere if the choking person can speak, cough forcefully, or breathe adequately. In addition, this maneuver is an absolute contraindication in which of the following individuals?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest