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Post-Operative Care of Surgical Patients

The critical care medicine (CCM) physician is frequently called upon to care for patients who have undergone major operations or require stabilization in the immediate post-operative period. The CCM physician assists the surgeon in the medical management of these patients until the patients' conditions have stabilized and any organ dysfunction has resolved.

The CCM physician performs an assessment of the patient's vital signs, physical condition, laboratory and clinical data. Based on this assessment, a comprehensive treatment plan is formulated. Organ systems which may show minor or serious dysfunction in the post-operative patient include the cardiovascular, lung, kidney, liver, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hematologic, and neurologic systems.

The CCM physician may utilize nutritional, hemodynamic, artificial ventilatory and other sophisticated treatment modalities to help stabilize the patient. Many patients who have undergone major operations return to the recovery room or intensive care unit on a mechanical ventilator (respirator). The CCM physician has special expertise in assessing the patients' readiness to "wean" from artificial ventilation and in the case of a patient not ready to wean, has expertise in the management of patients requiring prolonged artificial ventilation. The CCM physician is also trained to recognize and appropriately treat complications of surgery or hospitalization such as hospital-acquired infections.

The CCM physician coordinates the care provided to the critically ill patient with other medical or surgical specialists, as well as ancillary professionals such as nutritionists, respiratory therapists, and clinical pharmacists. The CCM physician may meet with the patient and family to provide information regarding the patient's condition, diagnosis, support, required testing, treatment and prognosis.

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