Keeping Me Well - Cardiff and Vale University Hospital

Equipment you might see in critical care

Here is a brief description of different pieces of equipment you may see on the critical care unit. If there is equipment that is not outlined below or you are unsure about what a piece of equipment does, please speak to the bedside nurse who will be able to explain.

An icon depicting a ventilator. A stand on wheels with a monitor, a unit with dials, wires and a bag.

Ventilator (breathing machine)

Supports breathing by getting oxygen into the lungs and removing carbon dioxide from the body when a patient is too unwell or sleepy to do so themselves. Patients will have a tube to allow the ventilator to provide breathing support. This may be placed through the mouth and into the windpipe (endotracheal tube) or placed directly into the windpipe (tracheostomy tube).

As patients get better they may no longer require the ventilator but may still need support with breathing. The team will explain the different types of breathing support provided to patients as these change throughout the patients stay.

An icon depicting an Endotracheal Tube. A tube with wires and a suction pump.

Endotracheal tube

This is a tube that provides breathing support from the ventilator to the patient. It is placed through the mouth and into the windpipe. 

An icon depicting a tracheostomy tube. A tube with connectors, valves and cuffs.

Tracheostomy tube

This is a tube that provides breathing support from the ventilator to the patient. It is placed directly into the windpipe. 

An icon depicting a suction unit. A container with a tube linked to a mechanical unit with dials.

Suction unit

Helps clear secretions from the airway when patients are not able to so themselves.

An icon depicting a Bedside Monitor. A computer screen.

Bedside monitor

Constantly monitors vital information such as heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure and oxygen levels.

An icon depicting an observation chart - a sheet on a clipboard

Observation chart

Where vital information about our patients is documented such as blood pressure, heart rate, urine output and drug infusions. This may be on paper or computerised.

An icon depicting pumps. A stack of machines with buttons and small digital displays.


Delivers fluids, medications and feed to our patients.

An icon depicting sounds. A ringing bell.


Alarms alert the nurses to changes in our patients’ condition and allow us to make regular adjustments to patients care. It doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. The bedside nurse can explain the different alarms and equipment to anyone visiting the unit.

An icon depicting a central line. A line inserted into a large vein to give medicines, nutrition or blood.

Central line

Placed in one of the large central veins and allows different medications to be given at the same time. This may also be used to deliver nutrition if a patients’ gut is not working properly.

Icon depicting an arterial line. A monitor showing a line graph with a wire that attaches to your finger.

Arterial line

A thin tube placed in an artery. Allows constant monitoring of blood pressure and means blood samples can be taken regularly.

An icon depicting a nastro-gastric feeding pump. A bag for milk attached to a stand and a monitor.

Feeding tubes

The most common type is a nasogastric feeding tube which is placed through the nostril, down the gullet and into the stomach. Another type of feeding tube is a naso-jejunal tube which is placed through the nostril, down the gullet and into the small bowel. If patients require long term artificial food they may have a tube inserted into the abdomen and directly into the stomach (gastrostomy tube) or small bowel (jejunostomy tube).

Icon depicting an air mattress. Side of bed with buttons.

Air mattress

Different air pressure within the cells of the mattress helps to prevent pressure sores from developing.

An icon depicting a calf compressor. A sleeve that goes round the calf that inflates.

Calf compressors

Air is pumped intermittently at different pressures to prevent blood clots from developing.

An icon depicting a Urinary Catheter. A bag with tubes.

Urinary catheter

A tube placed in the bladder which monitors how much urine the kidneys are producing and helps keep our patients comfortable.

An icon depicting a chest drain monitor. A container with measurements on the side with narrow pipes attached.

Chest drains

Allows us to drain air and any excess fluid lying between the lungs and the chest wall.

An icon depicting an intracranial pressure monitor. A computer screen with a handle showing a line graph.

Intracranial pressure monitor

A small wire carefully placed through the skull which detects rising brain pressure.

An icon depicting an External Ventricular Drain. A collection bag with tubes attached.

External ventricular drain

Drains excess fluid that may build up around the brain.

An icon depicting a haemo filtration machine. This is a large, upright machine with a computer screen at the top, buttons in the mid-section and bags hanging off.

Haemo-filtration machine (kidney machine)

Removes waste products from the body when the kidneys are unable to do it on their own.

Keeping Me Well - Cardiff and Vale University Hospital

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