What You Need to Know
Although Critical/Intensive care medicine is a health care specialty that commonly cares for patients with life-threatening illness or injury, it also provides care intended to avoid life-threatening complications in high-risk patients. Nearly 80 percent of all Americans will experience a critical illness or injury, either as the patient, or as a family member or friend of a patient.
Most critical care medicine today is delivered in highly specialized intensive care units (ICU). Critical care is provided by multi-professional teams of highly experienced physicians, nurses and other allied health care professionals. They use their unique expertise, ability to interpret important therapeutic information, along with access to highly sophisticated equipment to provide care that leads to the best outcome for the patient. The team should be directed by an individual with expertise in critical care medicine. Intensivists, many of whom are also anesthesiologists, are specialty trained physicians that provide the care and guidance needed by critically ill and injured patients and their families. Anesthesiologists’ extensive, specialized training gives them a strong background for this field of medicine. However, Intensivists do come from other specialty areas of medicine, such as surgery.
Patients are rarely admitted directly to the critical care unit. Rather, they usually first appear in the emergency room, trauma center or surgical area. The continuum of critical care begins at the moment of illness or injury and continues throughout the patient's hospitalization, treatment and subsequent recovery.
Some examples of critical illness include heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, surgical complications, sepsis, organ transplantation and premature birth. Critical care also includes trauma care whether due to an automobile accident, a fall, or another life threatening injury.
The Intensivist plays a key role in the long-term management of critically ill and injured patients often in the intensive care unit (ICU). He or she directs the care of critically ill and injured patients and works in collaboration with other health care professionals to provide patients comprehensive care.