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Post-Operative Critical Care Unit (POCCU) stay

Once your operation is over, you are left asleep in the theatres and transferred to the POCCU sedated and on a ventilator. This allows you to be monitored closely for a few hours until the team are happy that your are stable following your surgery. 

Things that the POCCU team look for are: 

  • Stable blood pressure and heart rhythm 
  • Good oxygen levels
  • No signs of lactic acid build-up
  • Kidney function based on urine production
  • Spontaneous breathing effort
  • Signs of bleeding from around the heart

If you meet all the criteria, your sedation will be turned off and you will be allowed to gradually wake up. Some people wake up quickly from anaesthetics, others take longer. When some people have anaesthetic, they wake up agitated and need a bit more time to settle down before the breathing tube is ready to come out. You may be aware that you are awake with a tube in your airway, but once you are fully conscious and breathing for yourself, this comes out.

The POCCU team are able to provide many different forms of organ support. You may know these are “life support” systems, but most often they are only there temporarily as the body comes round from the rigours of surgery. Examples of the types of support on POCCU include: 

  • breathing support (full ventilators if you have a tube in your airway or pressurised masks if you are awake)
  • heart support (drugs given through drips or machines that support the heart mechanically called intra-aortic balloon pumps or IABPs or electrically such as temporary pacemakers) 
  • kidney support (haemofiltration, which is similar to dialysis) 
  • artificial feeding (through feeding tubes in the nose that run to the stomach) 
  • neurological support (drugs given through drips or tablets to help with delirium or agitation; psychological support offered by the staff) 
  • wound care with dressings and suction devices 
  • blood tests and blood transfusions 

Most people do not need much support on the POCCU and after the first night under observation are on very little that cannot be given on the wards. If you do not need any of the above organ treatments, you will be discharged to the ward. 

If your care needs are ongoing, some patients are transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where the additional supports can be weaned off.