Whilst in critical care you may hear many different medical terms being used to discuss the care of the patient. Some of the main ones are listed below with a short explanation:
Arterial line – A cannula inserted into an artery that allows frequent blood sampling and continuous blood pressure monitoring.
Arterial blood gases (ABG) – A blood sample from an artery that gives results on acid-base balance, electrolytes and concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
Bronchoscopy – A flexible scope with a light and a camera on the end that can be inserted through the endotracheal tube (tube in the patient’s mouth) or tracheostomy. It allows for inspection of the airway, removal of secretions or taking samples from within the lungs.
Culture – Taking bodily fluids to be tested for infections in the laboratory. Commonly blood, sputum, urine or swabs from wounds.
Central line – A cannula inserted into a large vein that allows for continuous delivery of drugs. Commonly inserted into the neck, just below the shoulder or the groin.
Elecrtocardiograph (ECG) – A recording of the electrical activity of the heart.
Endotracheal tube (ETT) - A tube inserted through the mouth or the nose into the patient’s windpipe. This tube allows for the delivery of oxygen and air from the ventilator and helps to maintain an open airway.
Haemofltration – Filtering of the blood to remove excess fluid or toxic substances when the kidneys fail to work properly.
Inotropes – Medication to support the heart and blood pressure.
Monitor – A machine that continuously displays the physiological parameters of a patient. Commonly it will display the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Nasogastric tube (NG tube) – A tube inserted into the patients nose that goes into their stomach. An NG tube can be used to deliver medications, deliver nutrition and drain stomach contents.
Pneumonia – An infection of the lungs.
02 Saturations (Sats) – A measure of how much oxygen is in your blood.
Sepsis – The body’s reaction to a serious infection. This can be life-threatening.
Deep suctioning – This is when the nurse uses a long thin tube down the ETT or tracheostomy to clear the airway of sputum when the patient is unable to cough effectively.
Tracheostomy (Trachy) – An opening in the front of the neck into the windpipe, through which a tube is inserted.
Urinary catheter – A thin catheter placed up the urethra into the bladder to allow urine to drain and for accurate measurements of urine output.
Ventilator – A machine that helps a patient to breathe. It can either fully breathe for the patient or it can work with the patient to share breathing effort.
Weaning – A term used when a patient is gradually being taken off of the ventilator/oxygen.
Proning – A manual handling procedure where a multi-disciplinary team carefully manoeuvre a patient's position so that they are lying on their front, face down in a “prone” position. Proning is usually carried out when a patient is not responding well to mechanical ventilation.
Sedation – Commonly used within critical care. Often referred to as being in an “induced coma”. This may be necessary for patients who require ventilation via a breathing tube, have traumatic brain injuries, or extreme agitation. Many critically ill patients will receive sedation.
DNACPR – Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation - a decision may be made by the healthcare team if the patient is unable to make a decision regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Families will be consulted however; this remains a healthcare team decision based on the patient’s best interest.
CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation - cardiopulmonary arrest also known as cardiac arrest means that a person’s heart and breathing has stopped. It may be possible to restart the heart and breathing with emergency treatment called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).