Common medications used in critical care

I often see posts from students who have received placement allocations in critical care and are wondering what to read up on. Here are a list of the most common medications used in critical care that I hope others may find useful.

Sodium Chloride 0.9% (also known as normal saline) – every patient will usually have this on ITU, it is a source of water and electrolytes. Used for replenishing fluid and restoring/maintaining the concentrations of sodium and chloride ions.

Hartmanns fluid – used to replace body fluid and mineral salts. A mixture of sodium chloride, sodium lactate, potassium chloride and calcium chloride in water.

Propofol – sedation used in ITU for critically ill patients on ventilators. Propofol is given continuously via IV infusion.

Alfentanil – used as an opioid analgesia. Suppresses respiratory activity in patients receiving invasive ventilation. Acts within 1-2 minutes and has a short duration of action. Often used alongside sedation such as Propofol.

Noradrenaline – a vasoconstrictor used to treat hypotension. Norad is administered continuously via IV infusion into a central line.

Atracurium – a muscle relaxant used to paralyse. Dose is calculated on patients’ ideal body weight, not actual body weight. Able to be used in patients’ with hepatic or renal impairment due to the way it metabolises. Atracurium relaxes the vocal cords to allow intubation.

Vasopressin – often used as support for other vasoconstrictors, such as norad.

Ranitidine – reduces gastric acid output. Ranitidine is mainly used to stop stomach acid coming up from the stomach while the patient is under anaesthetic or sedation. It can also help to clear up infections within the stomach, when taken with antibiotics.

Remifentanil – used for sedation. Has a shorter onset duration than Alfentanil. Remi is often used overnight for patients who are not quite ready for extubation.

Digoxin – is a cardiac glycoside which increases the force of myocardial contraction and reduces conductivity within AV node. Digoxin helps make the heart beat with a more regular rhythm. Digoxin is used to treat atrial fibrillation.

Quetiapine – antipsychotic. Used for the treatment of ‘mania’ episodes.

Haloperidol – antipsychotic. Mainly used to ease agitation or restlessness in elderly patients.

Furosemide – diuretic. Used in critical care to offload a large positive fluid balance or if the patient is not passing an adequate amount of urine per hour.

Aminophylline – used to treat reversible airway obstructions.  Aminophylline is usually given via IV infusion and is used to treat the acute symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. Will often be given to patients who become ‘wheezy’ if nebulisers do not appear to be helping. Aminophylline belongs to a group of medicines known as bronchodilators.

Clonidine – used as a sedative agent when weaning patients off stronger sedation.

Tinzaparin –  an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clots in patients with reduced mobility. As the patients in critical care are often sedated and bed bound, all patients will be administered tinzaparin or a variant of this.

Antibiotics – The common ones used are Co-Amoxiclav, Tazocin, Meropenum and Clindamycin.

Love,

T x

 

Information was collated through talking to consultants, critical care nurses and further research through the BNF.

 

 

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