Leaving the ICU
The aim of the ICU is to support patients until the cause of their illness can be treated and resolved. For example, if you have pneumonia you may require intubation and mechanical ventilation to support your breathing until the infection can be cured by treatment with antibiotics. Some patients have very brief ICU stays of only 1-2 days. They are often previously healthy people who are recovering from scheduled surgery or have an easily treatable infection.
Longer or more complicated ICU stays happen for a number of reasons. These include entering the ICU with chronic serious illness, such as cancer, dementia, or heart, lung, or liver disease. Additionally, patients may require longer ICU stays if they have had a severe trauma or brain injury. Some people develop problems with their lungs and other organs as a result of powerful infections. Rarely, patients may get very sick after a surgery.
It is difficult to predict exactly when a patient may be well enough to graduate from intensive care. “What needs to happen so that I can leave the ICU” is a good question to ask your healthcare team.