Intensive care: experiences of family & friends

Planned admissions

Most people admitted to ICU have an unexpected life-threatening condition but some are admitted after planned (or elective) surgery because they need special support and care after an operation. Elective surgery ICU patients differ from emergency patients in that they, their families and close friends know they will spend some time in intensive care after their surgery. Even so, everyone's experience is unique, whether they are patients or relatives.

Here people talk about what happened when a partner, relative or close friend was admitted to intensive care after having surgery.

People are admitted to ICU after many different types of major surgery, including heart operations and surgery for cancer. Two people said the ill person had been admitted to ICU after surgery for cancer of the kidney. 

In many cases, before going into hospital for planned surgery, people are given the opportunity to visit ICU. This is also a good time to ask questions and get information about the illness and treatments. One of the most noticeable things in ICU is the amount of equipment used and this can be frightening to anyone who isn't prepared for it, including family members when they visit. Some people said they'd been shown around the ICU by nurses so that they could prepare themselves for the equipment the patient would be attached to later. One woman said her husband had been admitted to ICU after a kidney transplant operation and they'd been given lots of information beforehand as well as the opportunity to visit ICU. 

Many elective surgery ICU patients will spend only a short time in intensive care before being transferred to a specialist unit or ward. 

Last reviewed August 2018.

Last updated May 2015.


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