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Common Approaches in Critical Care

Information for Patients

There are three common approaches of critical care:
  1. Full life-support measures - In this approach, hospital staff use all available treatments with no specific time line. This approach is most commonly taken for patients who did not have bad diseases before the present sickness and who are expected to fully recover.
  2. A trial of treatments - In this approach, hospital staff agree with the patient and/or family members to give treatments for a certain number of days and then see how things are going. This approach is commonly taken for patients who have bad diseases before the new acute sickness or whose condition was so poor before coming to hospital that full recovery is not likely. Any or all procedures and devices can be withheld or withdrawn at any point based upon the wishes of the patient or of the family when the patient is not able to make his or her wishes known. A decision can also be made at any point "not to add any additional treatments."
  3. Comfort care - The patient, or the substitute who is making decisions, decides, before beginning critical care, that no therapies other than those aimed at comfort will be used. Comfort care can also be started at any time after a trial of unsuccessful therapy (see Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatments).