Top of the page
An intensive care unit (ICU) is a part of the hospital where very sick people get care. One reason a person might be in an ICU is for trouble breathing. The ICU has special equipment to help people breathe. The doctor may use different equipment depending on how hard it is for the person to breathe.
The equipment that helps a person breathe may need to be adjusted a lot. If you have questions about breathing support, ICU staff can help explain the different types of equipment and how they work.
The ICU staff can use other devices to track breathing.
Over time, people in the ICU may not need as much breathing support. As a person gets stronger, the doctor may move (or wean) him or her from a ventilator to a CPAP machine, then to a mask or nasal cannula with oxygen, and finally to breathing without the need for help.
You may see tubes and wires attached to the person. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat the person. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
Ventilators and other equipment have alarms that alert the care team to any sudden changes. Often an alarm is not a reason for concern, but the care team may come in and check an alarm. If you have questions about any alarms, you can ask an ICU staff member.
The ICU staff is highly trained to care for very sick people. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Q798 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Breathing Support in the ICU".
Current as of: May 27, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
©2006-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.