What is an Intensive Care Unit (ICU)?

The ICU is a specialized unit in the hospital staffed by a team of doctors, nurses, and other providers trained to manage the complex needs of critically-ill patients. Certain medical therapies are only able to be delivered in the ICU. There are different types of ICUs that focus on providing care to certain types of patients so they can tailor their care to specific needs. Patients may be admitted to the ICU following surgery or from other areas of the hospital including the emergency room.

For further information about the ICU please visit the ICU at Parnassus site or the Pediatric Cardiac ICU site.


No. Some patients are automatically admitted to the ICU for close monitoring after certain types of surgery. For example, almost all patients having heart surgery will go to the ICU. Other patients may be admitted to the ICU for specific reasons, for example, if you lost more blood than expected during your surgery or require specific types of medications to support your blood pressure or heart rate.

Patients in the ICU are cared for by ICU doctors, specially-trained ICU nurses, and pharmacists. Depending on your specific medical needs, your care may also include surgeons, advanced practice providers, respiratory care practitioners, rehab specialists, and social workers.

The duration of your stay depends on the reason you were admitted to the ICU. Sometimes the team will be able to tell you the expected duration of your admission ahead of your surgery. Other times it will depend on how you respond to specific therapies, but you and your loved ones will remain informed by the care team.