Get to know your specialist: What does an Intensivist do?

Intensivist ICU

Have you or a family member received care, or perhaps heard the title ‘Intensivist’ before? And weren’t quite sure as to what their speciality covers?
Dr Grant Laing, an intensivist at ‘Hilton Life Hospital‘ answered our question on What does an Intensivist do?.

What does an intensivist do?

What does an Intensivist do? By Dr Grant Laing

An Intensivist is a specialist who specialises in the care of critically ill patients, most often in the ICU. Intensivists can be physicians (emergency medicine physicians, or other specialists), anesthesiologists, paediatricians (including neonatologists), or surgeons who have completed a fellowship in critical care medicine. 

The intensivist must be competent not only in a broad spectrum of conditions common among critically ill patients. But also with the technical procedures and devices (i.e. mechanical ventilators, dialysis machines, ECMO) used in the intensive care setting. 

Patients may be transferred directly to an intensive care unit from an emergency department. As well as patients would be referred to an Intensivist by their consulting surgeon, a physician from a ward if they rapidly deteriorate. Similarly, immediately after surgery if the surgery is very invasive and the patient is at high risk of complications. 

The reason an Intensivist is asked to take over the management of a patient is that critical care medicine encompasses the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of clinical problems representing the extreme of human disease. The care of critically ill patients raises many complicated ethical and social issues, and the intensivist will be competent in areas such as end-of-life decisions, advance directives, estimating prognosis and counselling of patients and their families. 

Surgeons who are intensivists often, as in our practice, do not operate on patients. They use their previous training in surgery to provide insight into the surgical pathology that patients present with. The only interventions provided are those commonly performed in the ICU. Namely intubation and insertion of central venous catheters and arterial lines.’

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What does an intensivist do?

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