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Cardiac Care Unit

What Happens in the CCU?

By Maureen Salamon

Updated September 26, 2008

(LifeWire) - What Is the CCU?

After a heart attack or major cardiac surgery, patients typically are treated in a hospital's cardiac care unit, or CCU, which offers highly specialized care until their condition stabilizes.

The equivalent of an intensive care unit, or ICU, which is for critically ill patients with other types of conditions, a CCU contains extensive heart monitoring and testing equipment as well as a staff trained and certified in heart conditions and procedures and their aftermath.

More than 300,000 Americans undergo coronary bypass surgery each year, whereas another 920,000 suffer a first or subsequent heart attack, and 80 million people overall have some type of cardiovascular disease. Consequently, the CCU -- which is also known as the coronary care unit -- tends to be a busy place. The average stay in a CCU is five days, after which most patients are transferred to a hospital's step-down unit for less intensive care.

After step-down care, patients are usually discharged, often beginning cardiac rehabilitation programs, which help patients make changes in diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors for at least several months.

What Happens in the CCU?

Like normal ICUs, CCUs are designed to limit stress to patients during the initial, critical phase of their treatment. Visitors are typically restricted to immediate family members, and visiting hours are often limited to two or three short periods of time per day. Food and other items brought from outside the hospital, such as plants and flowers, are usually prohibited as well. Patients in CCUs tend to be on supervised diets, and plants can introduce potential infection-causing bacteria into the environment.

Often, patients are hooked up to wires and tubes during their CCU stays, which can prove disconcerting to family members, but is necessary for close monitoring. All patients are connected to heart monitors, and some patients also require ventilators to assist their breathing. Additionally, a variety of tests are often done during a stay in the CCU, such as blood work or electrocardiograms, which measures the electrical activity of the heart. Many different cardiac medications may be given, including those to treat heart failure or to reduce the workload of the heart.

Stress-inducing noise, however, can be a hard-to-control problem in CCUs. Many medical devices, including heart monitors and respirators, emit periodic beeps and buzzes, and the around-the-clock movement of medical personnel through the unit can make the CCU less restful than intended.

A 2008 Journal of Clinical Nursing study found that CCU noise levels were often far beyond the recommended standard for hospitals and generally ranged from 60 to 70 decibels -- equivalent to the sound of a constantly running vacuum cleaner or highway traffic at close range.

Sources:

Akansel, Neriman, and Senay Kaymakci. "Effects of Intensive Care Unit Noise on Patients: A Study on Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery Patients." Journal of Clinical Nursing 17.12 (2008): 1581-90. 15 Sep. 2008 <http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/jcn/2008/00000017/00000012/art00006> (subscription).



"At-a-Glance Summary Tables." AmericanHeart.org. 2008. American Heart Association. 30 Aug. 2008 <http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1200078608862HS_Stats%202008.final.pdf>.



Cooper, Howard A., Cecilia Monge, and Julio A. Panza. "Patients with End-Stage Renal Disease and Acute Myocardial Infarction Have Poor Short-Term Outcomes Despite Modern Cardiac Intensive Care." Coronary Artery Disease 19:4 (2008): 231-35. 15 Sep. 2008 <http://www.coronary-artery.com/pt/re/cad/abstract.00019501-200806000-00003.htm;jsessionid=LSVJ102PxNsLQ3hqQ0KM3BpTNmQcsmRccV46LhTcp5ZTVcpmPKq0!383905440!181195628!8091!-1>.



"Coronary Care Unit." LakewoodHospital.org. 2008. Lakewood Hospital. 15 Sep. 2008 <http://www.lakewoodhospital.org/body.cfm?id=111>.



"National Center for Health Statistics: Heart Disease." CDC.gov. 8 Aug. 2008. Centers for Disease Control. 30 Aug. 2008 <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart.htm>.



"What Happens after Heart Surgery?." AmericanHeart.org. Oct. 2007. American Heart Association. 14 Sep. 2008 <http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/119626811852451%20WhtHppnsAftrHrtSrgry%209_07.pdf>.


LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Maureen Salamon is a New Jersey-based freelance writer who has written for newspapers, websites and hospitals.

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