Drugs are an essential part of the care provided in an ICU. The amount and type of drugs given to a patient will vary according to their condition and progress. ICU staff will explain your relative’s individual needs. Drugs commonly used are listed below.


  • Drugs to fight infection Open or Close


    Antibiotics are used to halt the infective process allowing the body to recover from the damage caused. They are extremely useful but their administration has to be monitored very carefully since inappropriate use can lead to serious side effects and encourage drug resistance. The critical care team work closely with microbiology to ensure that all patients are receiving the correct antibiotic. It is important to realise that a time free of all antibiotics can be beneficial to a critically ill patient allowing the normal protective organisms that we all  have to re establish themselves.

  • Drugs to help a patient's heart work more effectively Open or Close


    Inotropes are a group of powerful drugs that help to make the heart work more effectively. They increase the amount of blood pumped by the heart (cardiac output) and can thus improve the patient's blood pressure and flow to the vital organs of the body.


  • Drugs to keep a patient still Open or Close

    Muscle Relaxants

    Sometimes additional drugs are given to a sedated patient to stop any muscle movement and allow them to be attached more comfortably to breathing equipment. These drugs make a sedated patient seem unresponsive because the drugs prevent them from making facial expressions or moving their hands. Patients receiving these drugs will often be attached to a machine that monitors brain activity (BIS machine) and will be receiving other agents to ensure that they are not experiencing any stress.

  • Drugs to keep a patient rested Open or Close


    Sedatives are used to keep a patient in a deep sleep or in smaller doses to keep a conscious patient calm. This makes them more tolerant of the tubes and equipment attached to them. The drugs used are typically referred to as tranquillisers e.g. midazolam or intravenous anaesthetic agents e.g. propofol.

    Some sedatives cause patients to lose their short-term memory temporarily. Patients will often not remember periods of their stay on ICU. A relatively new initiative within the critical care sphere is to introduce the concept of a patient diary that is kept by staff and visitors to record significant moments during the time a patient's stay on the ICU. Evidence shows that this can aid the patient's long term recovery to full physical and mental health.


  • Drugs to stop the pain Open or Close


    The types of painkillers used in an ICU are powerful. They can make a conscious patient drowsy, but they are effective in pain relief and can reduce patient anxiety. Morphine or various related drugs called opiates are most commonly used but other types including non steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID) drugs can be used in specific circumstances. Common drugs used include the following:

    o  Morphine

    o  Alfentanil

    o  Fentanyl

    o  Remifentanil