Intensive care is a branch of medicine dealing with seriously ill patients whose vital signs must be monitored constantly, often using invasive methods, and who may require extraordinary measures, such as a ventilator or other sophisticated support of the organs such as dialysis or a pacemaker in order to stay alive. Dr. Robert Chase is the diagnostic team's intensive care specialist (or intensivist). Intensive care is common for patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest, a massive trauma such as a gunshot wound, or are in severe distress as the result of an infection. The current state of intensive care medicine traces its origins to Dr. Peter Safar in the 1950s, although many of the techniques date back to Florence Nightingale in the early 19th century. The first modern ICU was created at the University of Pittsburgh in 1962.
The most common conditions requiring intensive care are:
- High, low or variable blood pressure
- Airway or respiratory compromise
- Acute kidney failure
- Serious arrythmia
- Mutiple organ failure
- Recovery from major surgery
Intensive care is usually only used when a patient is likely to recover from the issue that brings them to the ICU, although this can be a difficult judgment call for a physician.
Intensive care uses a great deal of staff, technological and monetary resources and is one of the most expensive parts of health care, accounting for well over 10% of all hospital costs in any given year.