Donation after cardiac death
Called DCD
A process that occurs when the patient will not regain health and is removed from life support. If the patient's heart stops beating in a somewhat short timeframe, he or she can be a candidate for organ donation.
Do-not-attempt-resuscitation order
Called DNAR or DNR
Instructions on the medical chart written by the doctor but based on patient request. The order tells the care team not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the patient’s heart stops. It is simply a choice to say no to CPR but yes to all other appropriate medical treatments.
A healthcare professional who helps plan therapy that destroys cancer cells. The dosimetrist determines how best and safely to supply the amount of radiation the patient needs.
A bag of fluids, medicine, or nutrients that go into the vein to help the patient get better. The bag runs constantly on a pump.
Durable power of attorney
A legal document that gives another person the power to make decisions about the patient's medical treatment. The person only has power if the patient becomes too ill to make decisions on his or her own. What the document includes varies from state to state. It may include:
  • A sworn, signed statement from the patient that confirms who will make the decisions
  • A list of medical treatments the patient desires, such as removal of life support
  • The name and contact information of the decision-maker and two other people, should the original person not be able to make the decisions
  • The amount of time the person will have this duty
Emergency department
Called ED
A place of medical care where doctors and nurses stabilize the patient first. Then they transport the patient to the intensive care unit (ICU) or another area of the hospital for further treatment. The ED is not the same as the ICU. In the ED, healthcare professionals determine what kind of care the patient needs and then transfer the patient to a place with that care. Sometimes, they discharge the patient home.
Emergency medical technician
Called EMT
A healthcare professional who responds to a medical emergency where it has happened. EMTs provide on-the-spot care for an ill patient. Then they bring the patient to the hospital for further medical treatment. Examples of care that EMTs provide include:
  • Opening airways
  • Controlling bleeding
  • Assisting with childbirth
End-of-life care
The medical care that a very ill patient receives when he or she will not regain health. Many intensive care units (ICUs) have rules in place for this care. The goal of end-of-life care is to make sure the patient dies as dignified and pain-free as possible. End-of-life care can take place in the hospital, a home or the hospice unit.
Endotracheal tube
Called ETT
A tube connected to a machine that helps the patient breathe. The tube is inserted through the mouth or nose. Oxygen moves from the machine, through the tube, into the lungs, and throughout the body.
Foley catheter
Called urinary catheter
A tube inserted into the bladder and kept in place by a balloon that drains the bladder. The urinary catheter helps the care team measure how much urine the patient is producing. It helps them determine if that amount is normal or if the patient’s kidneys are not working in the way they should.
Not being able to perform a function that involves the body, thoughts, feelings or mind. Examples of these functions include:
  • Eating
  • Walking
  • Caring for oneself
  • Making decisions
  • Being aware of one's surroundings
Informed consent
Permission you give to the doctor to treat you, if you are the patient. Before you give permission, the doctor should explain the risks and benefits of the treatment to you. By law, doctors must have informed consent before starting any treatment. If you are too ill to consent, consent will likely be from someone you have chosen ahead of time as your decision-maker.
Inpatient care
Medical treatment in a hospital. To receive inpatient care, the patient stays in the hospital for at least one day, but often more. Critical care is almost always inpatient care.
Intensive care unit
Called ICU
An area in the hospital with special equipment and staff, who are known as the critical care team. The care team check on and treat very ill patients all day and all night. Patients come to the ICU from the emergency department or another area of the hospital—usually after surgery. They may also come from a place of care outside of the hospital. There are many kinds of ICUs, including: 
  • Burn or trauma unit
  • Coronary care unit, or CCU
  • Medical intensive care unit, or MICU
  • Neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU
  • Neurosurgery intensive care unit, or NSICU
  • Pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU
  • Surgical intensive care unit, or SICU
A medical doctor who has studied, trained, and tested in caring for very ill patients. The intensivist is often an expert in one of these areas:
  • Surgery
  • Internal medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Anesthesiology
Intra-aortic balloon pump
A machine that helps a weak heart pump blood throughout the body. The machine has a tube that goes into the body's main artery, and the tube has a balloon that inflates and deflates to match the natural beating of the heart.
Intracranial pressure catheter
A small tube placed into the brain. It helps the care team keep an eye on swelling in the brain and, if necessary, drain excess fluid from around the brain.
In a vein.
Intravenous feeding
Called intravenous catheter or IV.
Giving the patient nutrients in the form of liquid through a tube when the patient is not able to eat or his or her digestive system needs to rest. The tube goes into a vein in the arm or neck. Keywords: intravenous, feeding, catheter, IV
Intravenous therapy
Giving the patient fluids, medicine, or nutrients through a tube in a vein. Some patients need this therapy once, and other patients need it nonstop. Intravenous therapy can help the patient:
  • Regain lost body fluids or moisture
  • Eat
  • Receive medicine that controls blood pressure or heart rate
  • Feel numb during an unpleasant medical treatment
When the body does something without the brain telling the body to do it, such as breathing. The patient has no control.
Laboratory technician
A healthcare professional who obtains and tests samples from the body. Common samples include blood, urine, tissue and sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus).
Small pads on the patient’s chest that are clipped onto wires connected to a heart monitor. Leads help the care team check the patient’s heart rate and rhythm.
Life support
Medical equipment or treatment that supports or replaces a function of the body, such as breathing. Some patients are on life support for a short amount of time, until their body works on its own again. Other patients are on it for years, if they are in a coma.
Mechanical ventilation
Medical treatment that assists the patient with breathing. Mechanical ventilation breathes for the patient or supports his or her breathing efforts. The care team use it on patients whose lungs do not work in the way they should.
A machine that measures a function of the body, such as breathing or heart rate. The machine includes sensors, which are placed on the patient’s body, and two screens. The sensors cause measurements to show up on one screen near the patient’s bed and on another screen elsewhere in the hospital.
The care team use the monitor to watch over the patient's health, even after leaving the room. The monitor often beeps to alert them of changes in the patient’s health. Not all beeps mean there is a problem, and you can ask the nurse if you have questions.
Multiple organ failure
A health problem that occurs when many organs in the body fail. Patients who experience multiple organ failure rely on medical support to breathe, keep good blood pressure, clean their body’s waste, and more. Any illness that brings the patient to the intensive care unit (ICU) can affect other organs in the body. Slowly, one organ after another may start to fail—the first and most common ones being the lungs and kidneys. The second most common organs to fail are the brain and immune system.
Describes members of the critical care team. They have different backgrounds and training in how to care for a very ill patient.
Myocardial infarction
Called heart attack
A health problem that occurs when the heart suddenly stops receiving oxygen-rich blood from the arteries. This happens because fat buildup is blocking the arteries or a clot of blood has moved into the heart. Patients who are having a heart attack usually feel bad pain in their left side, chest, arm or all of those areas. Women may also feel fatigued and nauseous. If not treated right away, a heart attack can damage and even destroy the heart.
Nasogastric tube
A tube placed into the nose, down the throat, and into the stomach to:
  • Provide nutrients
  • Remove acid, fluids, or blood that is leaking from the stomach
  • Drain drug overdoses and poisonings
The care team often prepare the patient for this tube with a numbing medicine.
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