Surgical critical care: From old boundaries to new frontiers

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Scandinavian Journal of Surgery


The surgical specialty of critical care has evolved into a field where the surgeon manages complex medical and surgical problems in critically ill patients. As a specialty, surgical critical care began when acutely ill surgical patients were placed in a designated area within a hospital to facilitate the delivery of medical care. As technology evolved to allow for development of increasingly intricate and sophisticated adjuncts to care, there has been recognition of the importance of physician availability and continuity of care as key factors in improving patient outcomes. Guidelines and protocols have been established to ensure quality improvement and are essential to licensing by state and national agencies. The modern ICU team provides continuous daily care to the patient in close communication with the primary operating physician. While the ultimate responsibility befalls the primary physician who performed the preoperative evaluation and operative procedure, the intensivist is expected to establish and enforce protocols, guidelines and patient care pathways for the critical care unit. It is difficult to imagine modern surgical ICU care without the surgical critical care specialist at the helm.

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