Intensive care is needed for critically ill patients who need mechanical or pharmacological circulatory and/or respiratory supporting therapies and/or continuous monitoring because of their life-threatening condition.
Intensive care units, ICUs (in Hungarian: intenzív terápiás osztály, ITO) are special hospital wards that provide continuous monitoring and treatment for patients who are critically ill (resulting from an injury or severe disease) and/or require mechanical or pharmacological circulatory and respiratory support.
In Hungary, the ICUs’ structure was transformed in 2012 during which ICUs became distinct departments and became separated from other, multidisciplinary hospital wards which also provide continuous monitoring.
What intensive care involves
At ICUs the medical team provide intensive treatment with a wide range of tools for supporting or restoring deranged vital functions – respiration, circulation, fluid balance, blood sugar level, etc. The well-trained medical team uses high-tech monitors, tools and medical equipment to control the patients’ vital parameters. These devices continuously monitor the patients’ heart function, respiration, body temperature and in case of a problem, alarms, beeps and special light effects help the work of the ICU staff.
Intensive care involves:
- intensive monitoring,
- intensive nursing care,
- intensive medical treatment.
ICUs differ from other hospital wards in the following aspects primarily:
- continuous medical care 24/7 hours,
- greater number of medical staff,
- less hospital beds in the wards,
- high-tech tools and equipment,
- strict visiting regulations.
Conditions that need intensive care
The following conditions require intensive treatment:
- massive bleeding;
- serious accident, severe burn injury, post-operative care after big surgical interventions;
- severe fluid-, electrolyte-, acid-base imbalances;
- respiratory or circulatory failure;
- life-treatening conditions (e.g. renal failure, stroke, thrombolysis after pulmonary embolization, heart attack);
- severe infections (e.g. pneumonia, sepsis);
- conditions in which nutrition-supplementation/substitution is needed;
- extensive, multi-organ diseases;
- premature infants or infants with severe diseases.
Interventions at the ICUs
Patients at the ICU usually present insufficiency of one or more organs that without treatment, lead to their death. The most important thing is to restore or support the deranged vital function, while establishing the diagnosis and treating the disease comes afterwards.
The most frequently performed interventions and supporting therapies at the ICUs:
- mechanical ventilation,
- acid-base imbalance correction,
- supporting circulation and respiration,
- renal replacement therapies,
- pacemaker therapy,
- preventing blood clot formation, and blood clot dissolving therapy (thrombolysis),
- pleural drainage (in case of pneumothorax or pleural fluid),
- parenteral and enteral nutrition,
- prevention of decubitus formation,
- prevention and treatment of superinfections,
- psychological support,
- physiotherapy and mobilization.
The ICU team
The ICU team consists of doctors and nurses specialized in anesthesia and intensive care medicine. The specialist doctor’s training involves the different fields of intraoperative anesthesia, diseases requiring intensive care, preventing life-threatening conditions and different pain management techniques.
The intensive care is provided under the continuous supervision of doctors specialized in intensive care. Beside the nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians and psychologists are also members of the ICU staff.
Visiting hours at the ICU
Visiting patients at the ICUs is permitted, although the regulations are stricter than those at other hospital wards. Visiting is only permitted for close family members. Avoid visiting if you are ill.
When visiting a patient, you will be asked to comply with certain regulations in order to reduce the risk of spreading infections, such as wearing protective cloak and shoe protectors.
You might be asked to turn off your cell phone and bringing certain presents to the unit might be restricted or prohibited as well.
Discharge from the ICU
Patients are discharged from the ICUs when they do not need further continuous monitoring: their circulation, respiration, body temperature and fluid balance is stable, and they are able to manage their basic needs on their own.