Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)

The highly specialized 24-bed Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin is part of the hospital's 72-bed Al McGuire Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), which spans three floors of the facility.

Newborns, children, adolescents and adults are admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit when critical support is needed due to any number of complex heart conditions. These may include heart failure, heart transplant, hypoplastic left heart syndrome or other single ventricle diseases, adult congenital heart disease and complications of genetic conditions or heart defects present at birth. Patients recovering from surgery also find the expert care they need in the CICU.

Within the CICU, several factors work together to create an extraordinarily safe environment for your child.

Board-certified critical care and cardiac specialists

All CICU physicians are highly experienced, board-certified intensive care specialists (intensivists) with additional expertise in areas including cardiology, cardiac intensive care and cardiac anesthesiology. Their leading-edge research has improved outcomes, especially in the areas of postsurgical care such as protecting brain and kidney function.

Parents find peace of mind knowing that CICU physicians and staff are there around the clock to make sure their child is as healthy and comfortable as possible. Team members are specialists in treating heart and vascular conditions as well as other complications that may arise. Staff also excel at caring for patient families and help ease stress by involving them in daily care.

Seamless, comprehensive care

The CICU physician team includes intensivists and pediatric heart surgeons, cardiologists and anesthesiologists. Other CICU providers who specialize in taking care of children with heart disease include nurses, speech/feeding pathologists, dieticians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, child-life specialists and discharge planners. To ensure we are fully prepared for high-risk newborns with heart disease, we coordinate care with Birth Center staff. Keeping everyone fully informed, including family, means all team members are working together to provide the best possible care for your child.

Highly sophisticated mechanical support technology

As a destination hospital for complex pediatric heart conditions, our intensive care experts offer the complete spectrum of mechanical assist devices. We are experts in the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), ventricular assist devices (VADs) and other technology. These devices can allow the heart and lungs to "rest" while physicians treat the child's condition. They can also serve as a "bridge" to heart transplant, giving children more time to wait for a donor heart to become available.

Unique monitoring approach boosts outcomes

At Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, we use best-practice measures to monitor your child's condition. This allows us to quickly identify and correct changes in your child's condition. In addition to standard tools (such as blood pressure monitoring, pulse oximetery, and telemetry), we monitor the oxygen level in tissues and indicators of healthy brain and kidney activity. By monitoring tissue oxygen levels with near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS), we gain extra information that helps us detect and treat problems more quickly than with conventional monitoring. Thanks to these and other additional efforts, we have the best Stage 1 postoperative outcomes in the world for hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare and complex congenital heart defect.

Focused on families

In order to provide the best care, CICU staff encourage loved ones to participate in bedside, family-centered discussions about their child's care so that they can understand and contribute to care planning. Parents and grandparents are welcome 24 hours a day. The rooms and unit are designed to make is as easy and comfortable as possible for parents to stay with their children. Child life specialists are on hand to support families, especially siblings and older patients.