Intensive care unit (ICU) equipment includes patient monitoring, respiratory and cardiac support, pain management , emergency resuscitation devices, and other life support equipment designed to care for patients who are seriously injured, have a critical or life-threatening illness, or have undergone a major surgical procedure, thereby requiring 24-hour care and monitoring.
An ICU may be designed and equipped to provide care to patients with a range of conditions, or it may be designed and equipped to provide specialized care to patients with specific conditions. For example, a neuromedical ICU cares for patients with acute conditions involving the nervous system or patients who have just had neurosurgical procedures and require equipment for monitoring and assessing the brain and spinal cord. A neonatal ICU is designed and equipped to care for infants who are ill, born prematurely, or have a condition requiring constant monitoring. A trauma/burn ICU provides specialized injury and wound care for patients involved in auto accidents and patients who have gunshot injuries or burns.
Intensive care unit equipment includes patient monitoring, life support and emergency resuscitation devices, and diagnostic devices.
Patient monitoring equipment includes the following:
Intensive care equipment for life support and emergency resuscitation includes the following:
The use of diagnostic equipment is also required in the ICU. Mobile x-ray units are used for bedside radiography, particularly of the chest. Mobile x-ray units use a battery-operated generator that powers an x-ray tube. Handheld, portable clinical laboratory devices, or point-of-care
Disposable ICU equipment includes urinary (Foley) catheters, catheters used for arterial and central venous lines, Swan-Ganz catheters, chest and endotracheal tubes, gastrointestinal and nasogastric feeding tubes, and monitoring electrodes. Some patients may be wearing a posey vest, also called a Houdini jacket for safety; the purpose is to keep the patient stationary. Spenco boots are padded support devices made of lamb's wool to position the feet and ankles of the patient. Support hose may also be placed on the patient's legs to support the leg muscles and aid circulation.
The ICU is a demanding environment due to the critical condition of patients and the variety of equipment necessary to support and monitor patients. Therefore, when operating ICU equipment, staff should pay attention to the types of devices and the variations between different models of the same type of device so they do not make an error in operation or adjustment. Although many hospitals make an effort to standardize equipment—for example, using the same manufacturer's infusion pumps or patient monitoring systems, older devices and nonstandardized equipment may still be used, particularly when the ICU is busy. Clinical staff should be sure to check all devices and settings to ensure patient safety.
Intensive care unit patient monitoring systems are equipped with alarms that sound when the patient's vital signs deteriorate—for instance, when breathing stops, blood pressure is too high or too low, or when heart rate is too fast or too slow. Usually, all patient monitors connect to a central nurses' station for easy supervision. Staff at the ICU should ensure that all alarms are functioning properly and that the central station is staffed at all times.
For reusable patient care equipment, clinical staff make certain to properly disinfect and sterilize devices that have contact with patients. Disposable items, such as catheters and needles, should be disposed of in a properly labeled container.
Since ICU equipment is used continuously on critically ill patients, it is essential that equipment be properly maintained, particularly devices that are used for life support and resuscitation. Staff in the ICU should perform daily checks on equipment and inform biomedical engineering staff when equipment needs maintenance, repair, or replacement. For mechanically complex devices, service and preventive maintenance contracts are available from the manufacturer or third-party servicing companies, and should be kept current at all times.
Equipment in the ICU is used by a team specialized in their use. The team usually comprises a critical care attending physician (also called an intensivist), critical care nurses, an infectious disease team, critical care respiratory therapists, pharmacologists, physical therapists, and dietitians. Physicians trained in other specialties, such as anesthesiology, cardiology, radiology, surgery, neurology, pediatrics, and orthopedics, may be consulted and called to the ICU to treat patients who require their expertise. Radiologic technologists perform mobile x ray examinations (bedside radiography). Either nurses or clinical laboratory personnel perform point-of-care blood analysis. Equipment in the ICU is maintained and repaired by hospital biomedical engineering staff and/or the equipment manufacturer.
Some studies have shown that patients in the ICU following high-risk surgery are at least three times as likely to survive when cared for by "intensivists," physicians trained in critical care medicine.
Manufacturers of more sophisticated ICU equipment, such as ventilators and patient monitoring devices, provide clinical training for all staff involved in ICU treatment when the device is purchased. All ICU staff must have undergone specialized training in the care of critically ill patients and must be trained to respond to life-threatening situations, since ICU patients are in critical condition and may experience respiratory or cardiac emergencies.
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Jennifer E. Sisk, M.A.
Angela M. Costello