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What is palliative care in the ICU?

Palliative care is a specialty of medicine that helps with symptom management, decision-making and support for families and patients with serious and incurable illnesses. Many patients in the ICU can benefit from palliative care even if they are not at the end of their life.

Usually, the health-care team will address palliative issues by meeting with family members to discuss treatment options and support needs, and using pain medication and sedatives.

Sometimes, the ICU team will ask for a Palliative Care specialist to become involved in the care of a patient. For instance, palliative care specialist may be helpful in the following circumstances:

  • A patient has very severe pain or other complex symptoms;
  • If there is a plan to transfer a patient to the ward or a palliative care unit directly from the ICU, the palliative specialist provides continuity of care.

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Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100