Partial List of Equipment and Procedures Found in the ICU
Pulse Oximeter – The clip on the finger measures the oxygen in the blood and shows the level of oxygen on the display (in this case the oxygen level is 98%). A clip similar to this is used and is attached to the Critcal Care monitors to measure the level of oxygen.
Foley Catheter – A “Foley” catheter (or thin hollow tube) is placed in the bladder to let urine drain from the bladder. The Foley catheter can help patients who are too ill to pass water on their own. It also helps make sure that all urine is measured in patients who need very careful fluid balance.
Stomach Tubes – Many critically ill patients are not able to swallow properly. Also, patients on mechanical ventilators cannot eat by mouth. When the stomach and intestines continue to work, a tube can be placed through the nose or mouth and pushed down into the stomach. This tube allows nurses to make sure that the stomach does not get over filled, and also to feed the patient. Nasogastric (or “N.G.”) tubes are thicker tubes (about the thickness of a pencil). These tubes are used when it is important both to suck out stomach fluid for testing, to prevent over filling, and for feeding. Feeding tubes are thinner tubes that are used mainly for feeding.
Arterial Catheter – An arterial catheter is a thin, hollow, tube which is placed into the artery (most commonly of the wrist or groin) to measure blood pressure more accurately than is possible with a blood pressure cuff. The catheter can also be used to get repeated blood samples when it is necessary to frequently measure the levels of oxygen and/or carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.
Central Venous Catheter – is when a physician puts a long, thin, hollow tube into one of the large veins of the body, which are found in the neck, upper chest, legs or arms. This is similar to intravenous (IV) tubes that are placed in the smaller veins of the arms except that a bigger blood vessel is being used. Such a catheter has special benefits but it also has a greater risk than the usual IV.
Right Heart Catheter – Also known as pulmonary artery catheterization or Swan-Ganz catheterization is a common procedure in critically ill patients. The catheter is a long thin hollow tube that is placed through a central venous catheter and is then guided through the chambers of the heart and into the large blood vessels of the lungs. The catheter is left in place in a pulmonary (lung) artery. This catheter measures pressures in the heart and large blood vessels and checks how well the heart is working.
Mechanical Ventilator – is a machine that makes it easier for patients to breathe until they are able to breathe completely on their own. Sometimes the machine is called just a ventilator, respirator or breathing machine. Usually, a patient is connected to the ventilator through a tube (called an endotracheal tube) that is placed in the windpipe. Sometimes, patients can use a machine that assists breathing through a mask or mouthpiece but this may not work with severe respiratory problems.
Lumbar puncture – Is also known as a spinal tap. It is done to look for problems that involve the brain or spinal cord. It involves the placement of a thin, hollow needle into the lower back to get a sample of the fluid which surrounds the spinal cord.
Paracentesis (Taking a Sample of Fluid From the Abdomen) – Is performed to figure out what may be causing fluid to build up inside the abdomen (called ascites). Some diseases, such as liver cirrhosis (damage of the liver), cancer and certain infections may cause a build up of fluid inside the abdomen. The fluid can often be seen with ultrasound or other x-ray tests. Paracentesis involves placing a needle and/or thin, hollow plastic tube into the abdomen to get some of the fluid for testing.
Thoracentesis (Taking a Sample of Fluid From Around the Lungs) – Is done to figure out what may be causing fluid to build up in the chest around the lungs (called a pleural effusion). Some diseases, such as pneumonia and cancer, can cause a large amount of fluid to build up in the space around the lungs. Thoracentesis involves placement of a needle and/or thin, hollow plastic tube in between the ribs and into the chest to get some of the fluid for testing. Thoracentesis may also be done to make patients more comfortable, by relieving some of the pressure on the lungs. The needle (or tube) is removed after a few minutes when the procedure is completed.
Chest tube thoracostomy – Commonly referred to as “putting in a chest tube” involves placing a hollow plastic tube between the ribs and into the chest to drain fluid or air from around the lungs. The tube is often hooked up to a suction machine to help with drainage. The tube remains in the chest until all or most of the air or fluid has drained out, usually a few days. Occasionally special medicines are given through a chest tube.
Fiberoptic bronchoscopy – Is done when it is important to see the airways or to get samples of mucus or tissue from the lungs. Bronchoscopy involves placing a thin tube-like instrument through the nose or mouth and down into the lungs. The tube is able to carry pictures back to a video screen or camera.
Hemodialysis – Is done to take over the job of the kidneys when a patient’s own kidneys are not working properly. With hemodialysis, a patient is connected to a machine that washes the blood of waste taking the place of the kidneys. The patient is connected to the dialysis machine through a catheter placed in a large vein. During hemodialysis the patient is usually connected to the machine for 3-4 hours each day or every other day. Some special forms of hemodialysis take place at a slower pace, involving most of the day.
Gastrointestinal endoscopy – Is done when it is important to see the inside of the stomach or intestines. Gastrointestinal endoscopy involves placing a thin tube-like instrument through the mouth or the back passage, the rectum, and down into the gullet, or esophagus, stomach or intestines. The tube is able to carry pictures back to a video screen or camera. When endoscopy is done through the mouth, it is called upper endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD for short). When endoscopy is done through the rectum, it is called lower endoscopy or colonoscopy.