Intensive care medicine or critical care medicine is a branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and management of life threatening conditions requiring sophisticated organ support and invasive monitoring.
Patients requiring critical care may require support for instability, airway or respiratory compromise, acute renal failure, potentially lethal cardiac arrhythmias, or the cumulative effects of multiple organ failure, more commonly referred to now as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. They may be also be admitted for invasive monitoring, such as the crucial hours after major surgery when deemed too unstable to transfer to a less intensively monitored unit.
Critical care is usually only offered to those whose condition is potentially reversible and who have a good chance of surviving with intensive care support. Since the critically ill are so close to dying, the outcome of this intervention is difficult to predict. A prime requisite for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) is that the underlying condition can be overcome.
Critical care medicine is a relatively new but increasingly important medical specialty. Physicians with training in critical care medicine are referred to as intensivists. In the United States, the specialty requires additional fellowship training for physicians having completed their primary residency training in internal medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology, surgery or emergency medicine. US board certification in critical care medicine is available through all four specialty boards. Intensivists with a primary training in internal medicine sometimes pursue combined fellowship training in another subspecialty such as pulmonary medicine, cardiology, infections disease, or nephrology.