Children's Hospital Colorado
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When a child experiences a condition that can quickly become dangerous or even life-threatening, they may require critical care in an intensive care unit (ICU). Hearing your child needs critical care can be frightening. Rest assured that having your child in intensive care at Children's Hospital Colorado means that they are receiving compassionate, round-the-clock care to closely monitor their condition and provide the best possible outcome.

At Children's Colorado, our critical care teams provide care for children who are hospitalized with serious illness or injury and those recovering from major surgery. Supporting every service in the hospital, our critical care medicine experts help speed recovery and relieve pain and discomfort for the sickest patients with respect and compassion.

What is critical care and the ICU?

Pediatric critical care (also called intensive care) is specialized medical care for children whose illness or injury requires close, constant watch by a team of specially-trained medical professionals. Most critical care takes place in an intensive care unit, or ICU.

In the ICU, dedicated critical care teams have specialized training, skills and equipment to quickly assess and treat children with serious or life-threatening medical issues.

When does a child need to receive intensive care in the ICU?

The ICU is the best place for children to receive care when they are facing critical illness or injury or have highly-complex medical needs. Here, a multidisciplinary team of experts in critical care medicine and critical care nursing can provide advanced monitoring and care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Examples of patients who may require critical care include:

  • Kids with severe infections
  • Children with traumatic injuries
  • Babies who are born prematurely (neonates)
  • Children awaiting and/or recovering from complex surgery, such as heart surgery or organ transplants

Patients who have had major surgery or infusions (such as chemotherapy) often begin their recovery in intensive care, where they can be closely monitored before they are stable enough to transfer to a step-down or other inpatient unit.

Specialized ICUs: What is the difference between the PICU, the NICU and the CICU?

Children's Colorado is home to three different ICUs specialized to meet your child's specific needs. Where your child receives care depends on their age and primary diagnosis.

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) provides specialized monitoring and care for children who have experienced major illness, trauma or surgery. Most patients who need critical care are admitted to the PICU, unless they are newborns or have heart problems.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an intensive care area specially designed for newborns or very young babies (28 days and younger). At Children's Colorado, special attention is given to lighting, noise control and overall facility design to help sensitive babies heal.

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)

The Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) is a pediatric cardiac ICU that cares specifically for patients who need critical care for heart problems, such as babies who need open-heart surgery or children and teens experiencing significant heart issues. As part of our Heart Institute, our CICU team is specially trained to provide critical care for children with congenital and acquired heart conditions.

Whether in the PICU, NICU or CICU, we use the most advanced critical care medicine and technology available and are sensitive to you and your child's needs.

Who cares for children in critical care?

At Children's Colorado, kids in critical care are cared for by highly-specialized physicians called pediatric critical care specialists (also called pediatric intensivists). Neonatologists lead the care for children in the NICU, while cardiac intensivists lead the care for children in our CICU.

We provide multidisciplinary care in each of our intensive care units, where intensivists, critical care nurses, pharmacists, social workers, nutritionists, child life specialists and other departments work together with parents to meet more than just medical needs. Here, our highly-skilled, multidisciplinary teams collaborate to ensure your child has the best possible future following illness or injury.

Meet our teams in the PICU, NICU and Heart Institute. Or learn about our critical care and emergency transport team, Children's One.