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Talking about Critical Care

Patients in the ICU may have multiple IV lines, tubes and monitoring devices attached to them. Most of these devices are temporary and will be removed when they are no longer needed. Be sure to ask the nurse if you see anything you do not understand.

  • Heart Monitor Leads: Sticky pads placed on the chest to monitor the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Pulse Oximeter: A small device attached to the finger, nose or ear that helps monitor oxygen saturation and pulse.
  • Blood Pressure Cuff: A large cuff placed on the arm or leg, which inflates at timed intervals to measure the amount of pressure in the arteries.
  • Peripheral IV: A small plastic tube placed into a vein to give fluids or medications.
  • Arterial Line: A small tube placed into an artery to monitor the blood pressure.
  • Central Line/PA Catheter/PICC Line: A catheter in the arm, neck, chest or groin that helps monitor flow of blood. Some of these catheters may be used to give nutrition and other medications.
  • Foley Catheter: A tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine into a bag.
  • Nasogastric/PEG Tube: A tube placed in the stomach or intestines to give nutrition or remove stomach contents.
  • Nasal Cannula/Oxygen Mask: Devices that deliver oxygen to the patient.
  • Ventilator: A machine that supports breathing.
  • Endotracheal Tube: A breathing tube inserted in the mouth or nose that is connected to a ventilator.
  • Tracheostomy Tube: A breathing tube placed into the neck, usually when a ventilator is needed.
  • BIPAP/CPAP Mask: A special mask that covers the nose and mouth or entire face that is connected to a breathing machine to help patients get more air in their lungs or to prevent sleep apnea.
  • Intracranial Pressure Catheter and/or Ventriculostomy: A small tube placed into the brain to monitor brain swelling or drain fluid.
  • Chest Tube: A large tube placed between the skin on the chest and the lungs to remove extra air or blood.
  • Dialysis Catheter: A tube placed into the neck or groin used for dialysis to clean the blood and help the kidneys.
  • Intraaortic Balloon Pump (IABP): A tube placed into the groin, which helps the heart pump blood.
  • Pacemaker: A device that produces a low electrical current to make the heart muscles beat.

Patients may have some or all of these devices.

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