Children's Hospital Colorado
Pediatric ICU (PICU)

Pediatric ICU (PICU)

No one expects that their child will end up in the ICU. Our team is equipped to help patients and families traverse that journey, with the expertise, compassion and empathy that they need to heal.

The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children's Hospital Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus is the largest and most technologically advanced pediatric ICU in the Rocky Mountain region. With up to 48 beds and a care team of more than 150 clinicians, nurses and specialized staff, we are equipped to care for the most serious and complex pediatric conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

With some of the best outcomes in the nation and a constant focus on compassionate and child-friendly care, our team helps patients and their families achieve the best possible future following significant illness, injury or surgery.

When does a child need to go to the pediatric ICU?

The PICU provides advanced monitoring and comprehensive care for children facing critical illness or injury as well as those with complex medical needs. Our highly-skilled team has specialized training and equipment to quickly assess and treat children with serious or life-threatening medical issues.

Your child may start in our PICU after being transferred from another hospital or being admitted from the emergency department. In many cases, our team helps to establish the diagnosis and complexity of a child's condition and stabilizes them so they can begin their path to healing.

We also care for children who may need critical care as one phase of treatment. Patients who have had major surgery or other procedures, such as some types of chemotherapy, may begin their recovery in the PICU, where we monitor them closely before transferring them to another inpatient unit as soon as they are stable.

Conditions we treat in the PICU

Our PICU provides critical care for any child who needs it. We care for children facing a full range of severe and complex medical conditions, including:

  • Severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia
  • Single or multi-organ system failure
  • Traumatic injuries, such as burns and injuries to the head, chest and abdomen
  • Respiratory failure and severe asthma attacks
  • Recovery from complex orthopedic, neurologic and general surgeries, as well as organ transplants

ECMO and advanced life-support

In addition to basic critical care services, our team is specially equipped to provide advanced life-support therapies like extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT), high-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) and inhaled nitric oxide (iNO).

What to expect in the PICU

Having a child in intensive care can be a stressful experience. That's why we focus on providing the best care available while attending to the unique needs of children and their families.

We consider parents and family members to be the most important members of a child's care team. We encourage you to partner in your child's care as much as you are comfortable. We also encourage communication between parents, doctors, nurses and your child's primary physician. Here's more of what you can expect if your child needs a stay in the PICU:

Who will care for my child in the PICU?

Children in the PICU are cared for by highly-specialized physicians called pediatric critical care specialists (also called pediatric intensivists). In addition to their medical degree, these doctors have had resident training (three years) and fellowship training (three or more years) in pediatric critical care medicine.

Along with critical care doctors, the PICU at Children's Colorado includes a multidisciplinary team of critical care nurses and other medical professionals to help care for your child, including:

  • Advanced practice providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners who help develop and implement your child's care plan
  • Critical care nurses who care for only one to two patients at a time and are available 24/7 immediately outside of your child's room
  • Dedicated critical care respiratory therapists who provide specialized breathing treatments
  • Nutritionists to ensure your child gets the nutrients they need to help them heal
  • Dedicated critical care pharmacists to oversee your child's medication
  • Social workers to assist patients and families with difficulties associated with illness and hospitalization
  • Child life specialists to help patients and families cope with a hospital stay through education and play
  • Clinical assistants who are available to help support families and connect them to resources available at Children's Colorado

Meet our PICU team.

How long will my child be in the PICU?

How long your child will be in intensive care depends on their diagnosis and severity of their condition. Some of our families are here for as few as one or two days, while others may need to stay longer. Our pediatric critical care team will develop an individualized plan for your child and provide continuous updates to help you understand what to expect.

When compared to national averages for similar pediatric ICUs, patients in our PICU spend less time than expected in intensive care. This demonstrates the effective and efficient care we proudly provide.

Family support

We work closely with families and provide tools and resources to help make a sometimes difficult hospital stay go as smoothly as possible. Our social workers, child life specialists, spiritual caregivers, volunteers and patient advocates are available to support both patients and families during a stay in the PICU. Additionally, the Family Resource Center at Children's Colorado provides a home-away-from-home for parents and guardians while their child is in the hospital.

Learn all the ways we provide family-centered care.

Why choose Children's Colorado for pediatric intensive care?

At Children's Colorado, we are deeply committed to providing the safest and most effective care possible for patients facing critical illness. Our quality improvement team works relentlessly to reduce complications of ICU care and to improve critical care practices. Additionally, we lead cutting-edge critical care research both nationally and locally and provide children the most advanced treatments available.

While treating more critically-ill children than any other PICU in the Rocky Mountain region, our dedication to providing exceptional care has allowed us to achieve patient outcomes among the best in the nation. Some highlights include:

  • Our patient survival rates are among the best in the country at 98%.
  • Despite the fact that we see sicker patients, a higher percentage of children in our PICU survive their illness or injuries compared to similar PICUs around the nation.
  • On average, patients spend less time than predicted in our PICU, which means many kids can return home faster.

Our team also provides both patients and their families with the love, compassion and empathy to help kids heal.

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