UCI has experienced a constant evolution over time due to an abundance of health problems with patients as well as technological advances that have been adopted in necessary surgeries or treatments.
In 1860, Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern medicine, commented on the convenience that hospitals would have with a special unit focused on providing patients with an exclusive area of care for recuperation from a surgery. Because of this, the first descriptions of UCI are associated with post-surgery, provoking certain controversy. However, neurosurgeon Dr. W.E. Dandy practiced the first UCI in the United States in 1940 with a capacity of 4 patients and specializing in post-operative services related to neurosurgery. However, the first post-surgical UCIs were born in Germany due to the aftermath of the Second World War, where injured soldiers, once operated on, could enter UCIs to help their state of health. Afterwards, at the beginning of the 50s, the first units for respiratory care began to surface due to the epidemic of poliomielitis in Denmark, where manual tracheotomy ventilation systems were used with patients. For this reason, UCI as it is known today is the result of an evolution of original specialized units for patients in grave states. During the final years of the 50s and throughout most of the 60s, UCI developed tremendously as a nursing unit and in the treatment of intensive care, located aside from the conventional hospital wards. In fact, in 1958, one hospital room alone had the capacity to hold more than 300 patients with a UCI installation, a figure that significantly increased during the end of the 60s. In addition, according to a Canadian study conducted in 1961, the mortality rate decreased due to the implementation of these types of hospital units.
With the positive inertia of UCI’s results in hospitals, these specialized units were granted a greater importance in intensive medicine. In 1970, the American Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) was founded. In Spain, by means of the Royal Decree 2015/1958, intensive medicine was formed as a primary specialty. In 1982, the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine arose. We should also not forget the certification of specialties like internal medicine, gynecology, or surgery within intensive medicine on behalf of the American Council of Specialties.
After the consolidation of the UCI as a hospital section, there has been a constant evolution in each unit’s included services in order to enhance the treatment of care for patients in serious states. For this reason, the history of UCI continues to be written today and will remain in a constant state of evolution with the advance of science and technology, along with the appearance of new pathologies.