Common equipment used in critical care

Monitor – Every patient requires a monitor which allows for continuous monitoring of observations. These include blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturations, CO² and temperature can also be added on to the monitor.

Ventilator – A ventilator can assist patients’ with their own breathing, or completely take over the control of a patients’ breathing. This allows their body to rest and recuperate. The patient will either have an endotracheal tube or a tracheostomy. A tracheostomy tube allows the patient to receive full support whilst awake. If the patient has an endotracheal tube, they will be sedated.

Arterial line – An arterial line is inserted into an artery and this enables constant monitoring of blood pressure, through being connected to the monitor. They also allow access for frequent blood samples and ABGs. The arterial line can be inserted into the radial, brachial, femoral or pedal artery. The most common ones I saw in critical care were radial ones. The arterial line is sutured to the skin to keep it in place.

Central line – A central line is an intravenous line, inserted into one of the larger veins in the body. They are mainly used for administering medications, IV fluids are also given through central lines. Central lines are usually inserted into the jugular vein, but they can also be inserted into the femoral or subclavian veins.

endotracheal-tube-500x500Endotracheal tube – This is a plastic tube that is used during mechanical ventilation. The tube is inserted into the patient’s trachea, often the tube will be cut to a size recommended by the Dr carrying out the intubation. A bougie may be used to guide the insertion of the tube. Once inserted, the tube will be attached to the ventilator via ventilator piping. There is a cuff on these tubes that will be inflated to prevent movement of the tube, cuff pressure is checked regularly to ensure there are no leaks.

Indwelling urinary catheter – All patients within critical care will have a urinary catheter in place. This is to ensure accurate monitoring of urine output for the patients fluid balance records. Urine output will usually be recorded every hour.



Vas Cath – A vas cath is a specialised central line that is used only for dialysis. Placed in the jugular, femoral or subclavian veins. I only saw one of these in my time on critical care and it was placed in the femoral vein.


Product_PicWindow_Carefeed-AdultNasogastric tube – This is a flexible tube that is inserted through the nose and down into the stomach. The NG tube can be used to provide nutrition via a ng feed and to administer certain medications. The NG tube is aspirated regularly to check if the patient is absorbing the ng feed and to test the ph level of any aspirations collected. The position of the NG tube should be checked and recorded regularly by measuring the length of the tube visible. Before using the NG tube, the guide wire should always be removed.

tracoe-twist-ref-301-tracheostomy-tubeTracheostomy tube – A small tube placed into a hole made in the neck, allowing access to the trachea. A tracheostomy is used when a patient is being weaned from ventilator support. These are temporary and will be removed when the patient no longer needs them. The inner tubes are cleaned every 4 hours.

Intravenous infusion pumps – Used for any medication that is administered through a central line. The amount of medication infused every hour is recorded on the fluid balance chart. These are the ones used in my trust, others may vary.


Let me know if you’ve seen any other equipment on your critical care placements!


T x



4 thoughts on “Common equipment used in critical care

  1. Other equipment you may come across in an intensive care environment. I work in a critical care unit in a major trauma centre specialising in neuro,so some of these you may not come across:-

    NJ tube – similar to NG but bypasses stomach & goes to small intestine instead. Used when gastric tract is functioning but stomach needs to be avoided – eg persistent vomiting
    PEG – feeding tube inserted into stomach
    TPN – artificial feed delivered intravenously rather than gastric used when gastric tract has to be completely avoided ie- unabsorbtion of nutrients, bowel perforation/obstruction.
    Haemodialysis machine – used for renal replacement therapy in acute kidney failure,sepsis etc used with a vascath usually inserted internal jugular on my unit.
    *central lines I’ve had femoral,internal jugular,subclavian arterial lines-brachial,radial,femoral,dorsalis pedis (foot)*
    Epidural – catheter inserted into epidural space for pain relief post surgery- LEVEL TWO PATIENTS as need to closely monitor pain block
    PCA – patient controlled analgesia pump used post surgery when patients feel stable enough to monitor own pain LEVEL TWO. Programmed to give a small dose of oxynorm/morphine when patient presses a button
    Chest drain-tube inserted in chest cavity to remove fluid,pus,air from thoracic cavity
    Abdominal drain- drain inserted into abdominal cavity to drain fluid
    EVD- external ventricular drain a drain inserted in the head used for hydrocephalus and elevated intracranial pressure drains CSF fluid
    ICP – bolt inserted into head to monitor intracranial pressure
    Lidco – haemodynamic Cardiac output monitoring
    Flexiseal – catheter inserted into rectum for incontinent patients with frequent loose stools
    XFix – external fixator- orthopaedic fixation devices used to stabilise fractures
    Halo fixation device – brace used to stabilise neck
    HFNC – high flow nasal cannula – heated humidified o2 delivered at a higher flow than normal via nostrils
    Flowtron machine- treatment for preventing blood clots. A machine that circulates and blows air through inflated stockings – essential for patients on norad

    I’m sure there’s more but that’s all I can think of at the moment ..

    Liked by 1 person

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