Equipment at the ICU

The ICU can be a difficult place to visit, and you will see equipment and technology you may not be familiar with. Below is a list of some common equipment in the ICU.


We use bedside monitors to monitor how well our patients are doing. These monitors help us gather information on our patients’:

  • Heart rate and rhythm
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing
  • Oxygen saturation and CO2 levels

Intravenous Catheters

We insert intravenous (IV) or IV catheters (tube) into blood vessels to give fluids and medication.

Peripheral lines

A peripheral line (PIV) is a small catheter inserted into one of the blood vessels in the hand or arm.

Central lines

Many patients in the ICU will require a larger catheter called a central line (CVC) for multiple drug and fluid infusions. This CVC is inserted by a physician into larger blood vessels, usually in the neck, chest or groin.

Common medications

Medications commonly used in the ICU include sedatives, pain killers, antibiotics, blood thinners and agents that help heart function. Medication may be given through an IV or pills crushed and fed through the nasogastric tube.


A ventilator may be used to support a patient’s breathing. Ventilation can be provided in two ways:

  • Through a tight fitting face mask (bipap)
  • Through a tube that is either inserted into the mouth and into the trachea (windpipe) using an endotracheal tube (ET) or is surgically placed through an incision in the neck, called a tracheostomy.

There are many different types of ventilators and modes of ventilation. Your nurse or respiratory therapist can provide you with any additional information you need.

Arterial lines

These are catheters inserted into an artery and connected to the bedside monitor so that we can monitor blood pressure continuously and easily draw blood for lab tests.

Tube feeding or Parenteral Nutrition

When patients are on a ventilator, they are unable to swallow anything so a nasogastric or orogastric tube is inserted through either the mouth or nose into the stomach or small intestine so that we can provide the nutrition they need to get better.


Continuous renal replacement therapy is used when patients have acute kidney injury or chronic kidney failure. It is a dialysis treatment provided continuously 24 hours.  The goal is to replace, as best as possible, the lost kidney function. CRRT provides slow and balanced fluid removal that even unstable patients – those with shock or severe fluid overload – can more easily tolerate.

Special thanks to Fraser Health for providing some of the content for this section.