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Intensive care unit (ICU)

Intensive care unit (ICU)

Overview

An intensive care unit (ICU) is a section of a hospital or health care facility that provides care for patients with life-threatening health problems. These patients need constant monitoring and treatment, which may include support for vital functions. Common types of equipment used in the ICU include cardiac monitoring, mechanical ventilation, feeding tubes, intravenous lines, drains, and catheters. The ICU may also be called an intensive therapy unit or critical care unit.

Review Date 4/14/2021

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.