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Equipment

The Intensive Care Unit can be a very strange and sometimes overwhelming place. Under normal circumstances, family members have a really important role to play, in explaining what happened to their loved one whilst in Intensive Care. During the coronavirus outbreak, however, families are not allowed to visit the Intensive Care Unit. It's important that patients and family members understand what happens in Intensive Care. In this section, we have provided easy to understand descriptions of some of the most commonly used equipment and treatments in Intensive Care and why they are used.

 

 

 

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Article: Arterial line ("A line")

An arterial line (or "A line") is a sterile plastic tube (or cannula) that is inserted into an artery, usually in the wrist or groin. It allows accurate and continuous measurement of the patient's blood pressure. Blood samples are also taken from this line, to help us measure blood oxygen levels and make sure that the patient is receiving the right amount of support from the ventilator or breathing machine. An arterial line is usually stitched in, using a local anaesthetic, to...

Article: Blood pressure monitoring

We measure patients' blood pressure in Intensive Care using either a blood pressure cuff (like the one in a GP's practice) or using a device inserted directly into an artery (arterial line), usually the wrist or groin. An arterial line lets us monitor the patient's blood pressure accurately and continuously-helping us to identify problems quickly. We can also take blood samples (arterial blood gas samples) which tell us how much oxygen is in the patient's blood. This helps...

Article: Catheter (urinary)

Almost every patient in the Intensive care Unit will have a (urinary) catheter during their stay. What is a catheter? A urinary catheter is a flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine.It is collected in a clear drainage bag that is usually hung by the side of the bed, where it can be easily seen by the nurse. Why are they used in Intensive Care? Many patients are too unwell or too sleepy to use the toilet normally.It's very important that we accurately check...

Article: Central line ("Central Venous Pressure" or "CVP line")

A central line (also called a Central Venous Pressure or CVP line) is a sterile plastic tube or cannula that is inserted inserted into a large vein, usually in the neck or groin. It is used to administer intravenous fluids, liquid nutrition and some medications. Some medications need to be given via a central line, where the richer blood supply dilutes it. It is also used to take blood samples.A central line is usually stitched in, to avoid it becoming dislodged, and an X ray is taken to...

Web Link: COVID ICU: a video of an ICU, routine and specialist care and follow-up

This link will take you to a video from East Suffolk And North Essex NHS Foundation Trust. It's about 20 minutes long. It includes an introduction to the Intensive Care Unit, and explains some of the equipment used, and the types of care you will have received. Various members of the healthcare team introduce themselves and explain the types of things they will have done to support your recovery. These include, for example, the Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist,...

Article: CPAP

What is CPAP? (pronounced see pap) CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is another way in which we can help support patients with their breathing. Many patients with COVID-19 will receive CPAP. It involves putting a tight fitting mask over the patient's nose and mouth. The mask needs to be tight so that we can deliver extra support using air and oxygen at varying pressures.A transparent hood that fits over the head (rather like a large bubble) can also sometimes be...

Article: Drips, tubes and lines (cannulas)

What are drips, lines and cannulas? They are sterile plastic catheters that are inserted directly into the patient’s blood vessels. Peripheral line: a small sterile plastic cannula inserted into the small veins in the hand or arms. It is used to give intravenous fluids and medications. Arterial line (or "A line"): a sterile cannula inserted into an artery (usually in the wrist or groin) to allow accurate,continuous measurement of the blood pressure. We can also take...

Article: ECMO

What is ECMO? ECMO stands for Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation. It's similar the heart-lung bypass machine that's used during heart surgery. It's been used in the UK since the 1990's, for Intensive Care patients with the most severe cardiac (heart) and respiratory (breathing) conditions. It's a highly specialist and resource-intensive treatment that is only available in a few UK ICUs. It is only suitable for some of the very sickest patients with COVID-19. How...

Web Link: Equipment: a simple guide from the Intensive Care Society

This link will take you to a really simple guide on common ICU equipment, from the Intensive Care Society

Article: Heart monitor (ECG)

What does the heart monitor or ECG do? Heart or ECG (electrocardiography) monitors show the electrical activity of the heart. It is monitored using electrodes or “sticky dots” on the chest. Heart or ECG monitoring tells us about the heart rate and heart rhythm (both of which can sometimes be abnormal and require treatment). What is a "12 lead ECG"? In some cases (e.g. if a patient has an irregular heart rhythm or we are worried that they may be...