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Barwon Health / Intensive Care Unit

(03) 4215 1700

What happens in the ICU?

ICU patients require complicated support to help treat their severe conditions. This may require support to assist their lungs, heart, kidneys and other organs. You may find your loved one has limited ability to communicate for multiple reasons (such as being too sick, being given medications to relieve pain or sedation, or they are ventilated), but we encourage visitors to still converse with them as we know that some patients are able to hear and some may understand.

Many patients in ICU require assistance with breathing, which can require placing a tube in their trachea (windpipe) to help with breathing. This often requires sedation to help patients tolerate the breathing tube, and leads to an inability to communicate, though they may continue to hear or be aware of your touch.

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Some patients may also have special catheters (or “lines”) in their neck, arms, wrists or groins. These intra-vascular catheters have multiple functions, and are required to deliver medications and fluids, or monitor the patient’s vital signs.

Other intra-vascular catheters are required to provide continuous dialysis to assist patients who have developed kidney failure in the ICU. This provides a mild form of dialysis to help maintain the patient’s fluid balance and remove toxins present due to the kidney failure.

Other specialised treatment will be discussed with families and designated Medical Treatment Decision Maker, ensuring open communication and understanding of the procedures that may be required.

If you have any questions regarding treatment, please ask the bedside nurse or doctors caring for your loved one.

Last Modified: Thursday, 02 April 2020