Session looks at ICU of the future

Hannah Wunsch, MD

Hannah Wunsch, MD

A session about the “Intensive Care of the Future,” may seem like a tall order, but taking a look at what’s in store for ICUs is not the stuff of crystal balls and palm reading.

What’s on the horizon for the treatment of patients and look of ICUs is not far-fetched. With evolving technology and changing patient populations, intensive care is a field that is changing rapidly. Planning for future care requires discussion of what changes to expect and how the delivery of care may need to be altered.

This new program seeks to explore a number of areas of critical care that may change dramatically, including staffing patterns, technology, medications and other resources.

“We want attendees to have a little bit of fun in terms of speculating. It’s always fun to think about the future and what it might hold,” said Hannah Wunsch, MD, session co-chair. “We also want to start preparing their brains on a longer range level with regard to changes that might be occurring in intensive care.”

The goal is to provide attendees with insights into large areas of change so they can plan for adoption of new practices.

“It’s about anticipating what’s coming and thinking about how you might shape or change your own practice,” said Dr. Wunsch, assistant professor of anesthesiology and epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York.

She pointed to what she called “an explosion period” in the field, such as early mobilization and increased use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

With regard to ECMO, H. Daniel Brodie, MD, Columbia University Medical Center New York, will talk about the use of ECMO in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“This is a revolutionary concept of extubating a patient who has incredibly sick lungs, but who does completely fine on an ECMO machine,” she said. “We know this is someone who is basically at death’s door in terms of lung function, but yet the person is sitting there without a ventilator attached. That’s a kind of mindboggling concept. These are people who can walk around the ICU, but their lungs are basically disintegrating.”

Along with that, Dale Needham, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, will examine the concept of getting patients in the ICU up and moving.

“He will talk about the concept of our patients running laps in the ICU, which most of us weren’t thinking about 10 years ago,” Dr. Wunsch said. “While this is not new, he’ll speculate on how far we’ll be able to push that.

“I see this as a revolutionary time in terms of reassessing how we take care of patients in the ICU. It may not change in the next few years, but the more we push ourselves to think about how we can make positive changes for our patients the better they’ll be in 20 years.”