Patients and Families

Patients and Families

It can be a frightening and difficult experience when a family member or friend is admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

What is ICU?

Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are special areas of the hospital where the sickest of people are cared for. Usually, someone is admitted to ICU because they need to be on a breathing machine (a ventilator), need help with blood pressure or heart rate, need to be on a heart lung bypass machine (ECMO) or need dialysis for their kidneys. Sometimes people need to have lots of machines and medications to help them get better.

We understand that visiting a family member or friend in an ICU can be very overwhelming.

Why are people admitted to ICU?

A person is likely to be admitted to ICU if they are in a critical condition and need constant observation and specialised care. This can happen:

  • after major surgery
  • following an accident (e.g. car accident, severe burn)
  • during a chronic or terminal illness (e.g. heart or kidney failure, stroke, heart attack)
  • during a serious infection (e.g. pneumonia, sepsis)

How can I get more information?

We encourage you to reach out to the doctors and nurses looking after your loved one. If you would like more general information, the links below will take you to more specific information about conditions, equipment, investigations and treatments and visiting.

Visit Health Direct for more information about Intensive Care.

This patient and family brochure provides more information about what to expect while your loved one is in intensive care.

What to expect while your loved one is in intensive care


The information is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation. In addition it reflects Australian intensive care practice which may differ from other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the doctors and nurses caring for your family member or friend. ICNSW attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.