South Florida Hospital News
Saturday October 31, 2020
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August 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 2
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A Specialized Dimension of Care

A long-term acute care (LTAC) hospital is a special kind of hospital that treats a special kind of patient.

An LTAC hospital is designed to treat severely ill patients who require a longer hospital stay than what is typical of a short-term acute care hospital. These patients often suffer from multiple organ system failure or conditions such as:

  • neurological disorders, such as epilepsy or Parkinsonís disease
  • head injuries
  • brain stem and spinal cord injuries
  • cerebral vascular accidents (stroke)
  • cardiopulmonary disorders, such as emphysema, pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • wounds, such as surgical, burns or vascular or pressure related
  • severe complex infections.
Caregivers at an LTAC hospital are skilled in caring for patients who have more serious, long-term health issues that require the care of an interdisciplinary team as opposed to a single physician.

In some cases, the patientís regular physician will continue to see the patient if he or she is moved to an LTAC; in other cases, the patientís care will be transferred to a physician who specializes in caring for patients who require long-term acute care.

Nursing staff levels are comparable to those at a short-term acute care hospital, as are staffing levels for therapists and other clinicians.

Patients in an LTAC hospital are usually referred from a traditional short-term acute care hospital because they require long-term care, therapy and recovery. These patients often have complicated health issues that come with multisystem failure.

Illnesses Treated in an LTAC Hospital

Some of the more common illnesses we treat include the following:

  • Multisystem failure. This term describes a breakdown in the function of organs including, but not limited to, the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and skin. Often the failure of one organ leads to limited performance in another, and becomes a complex medical issue treated with therapy, medication and technology and equipment.
  • COPD. The fourth most frequent cause of death in the U.S., this refers to a group of lung diseases that interferes with normal breathing by affecting lung airways. COPD often results from smoking. Types of COPD include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. These patients also require prolonged ventilator assistance.
  • Emphysema. This disease is caused by smoking and slowly destroys the lungs over a long period of time. It progresses with periods of lung inflammation and infection and leaves the body with reduced lung capacity to combat the next episode, and less capacity to provide oxygen to the blood. Patients with emphysema often require prolonged ventilator assistance and then, at the appropriate time, ventilator weaning.
  • Wounds. Accident, surgery, infection, circulation problems or skin tissue breakdown can result in chronic or slow-healing wounds. Treatment can include pressure-relief surfaces, debridement, removing dead tissue to encourage healing, whirlpool irrigation and growth-promoting dressings.
  • Stroke, trauma and other neurological injuries. These conditions can include decreased mobility, loss of strength or swallowing disorders, known as dysphagia, and are treated with physical, occupational and speech/language therapy as well as required medical procedures.
Medical Procedures in an LTAC Hospital

The special care LTAC patients require may include these procedures:

  • Urinary catheter. LTAC patients frequently need assistance in draining their bladders. A urinary catheter Ė often called by its trade name, a Foley catheter Ė is a tube inserted into the bladder. It also helps patients avoid painful infections or wounds caused by dampness.
  • IV catheter. This small plastic catheter, usually placed in the arm, is inserted to allow medication or fluid to enter the patientís blood stream directly.
  • Peripheral inserted central catheter (PICC) line. A PICC line is inserted into the upper arm to allow dispensing of medication or to take blood samples.
  • Tracheotomy. A device inserted through a small hole at the base of the throat that gives patients easier access to ventilator care, helping avoid the irritation and complications of tubes placed in the nose or mouth.
  • Feeding tube. Nutrition is an important part of an LTAC patientís recovery, and if a patient cannot swallow, he or she is fed through a tube inserted through the nose or directly into the stomach.
The transfer of loved ones to an LTAC hospital means a move to a setting where concentrated, long-term attention will be given to his or her unique medical condition by a team of physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians and clinicians with special expertise.
For additional information about any of the South Florida Hospitals, contact Fernando Durand, Area Director of Marketing at (305) 450-2079.
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