Coronary Care Units

A Coronary Care Unit (CCU) is the specialized section of a hospital, often times a subunit of an ICU, which deals with various cardiac conditions that require constant monitoring and treatment. Cardiac conditions can vary from heart attacks, arrhythmias, and unstable angina to cardiogenic shock, or post-operative "open-heart" surgery.

Most patients suspected of having suffered an acute heart attack are admitted to a hospital's coronary care unit (CCU). The CCU is intended to be a quiet, calm, and restful area in which patients can be further evaluated and closely monitored. A specially trained nurse who works with doctors and other members of the medical team provides individualized care. Visiting hours are usually restricted.
The length of stay in the CCU varies, depending on :
  • Whether or not the diagnosis of a heart attack is confirmed
  • The severity of the heart attack
  • The presence and severity of associated complications

A patient with a heart attack without complications spends about two to three days in a CCU before being transferred to a step-down unit. A step-down unit offers less intensive care than the CCU but still permits continuous ECG monitoring to screen for abnormal heart rhythms or other complications. The patient usually goes home five to seven days after hospital admission.

Care in the CCU focuses on:
  • Relief of chest pain and anxiety
  • Further assessment (diagnostic tests) to confirm a diagnosis
  • Limiting the size of the heart attack and the area of heart muscle that dies
  • Reducing the work of the heart
  • Identifying, preventing, and treating complications from the heart attack

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