Intensive Care Units

The Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit (CSICU) cares for critically ill patients after cardiac or thoracic surgical procedures to treat coronary artery, valvular, aortic and congenital heart diseases, and following heart transplants or implantation of ventricular assist devices.

Illustration of heart

Illustration of heart

Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit

Recent advances in technology have created an environment of expanded opportunity for the patient living with cardiovascular disease. Dedicated professionals in the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit (CSICU) provide patient- and family-centered care of the highest quality to acutely ill patients. These patients are recovering from procedures including:

  • Coronary artery revascularization (CABG)
  • Valve repair and replacement
  • Repair of congenital heart disease anomalies
  • Aortic aneurysm repair
  • Other cardiovascular interventions
  • Surgical interventions for advanced heart failure, including implantation of ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation

Your Health Care Team

Under the leadership of Medical Director William D. Hoffman, MD, and Nursing Director Vivian Donahue, RN, MS, ACNS-BC, CSICU staff work as a multidisciplinary team and endorse a collaborative approach to patient-centered care. The team includes:

  • Intensivists (physicians who are board-certified in critical care medicine)
  • Cardiac and thoracic surgeons
  • Acute care nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • 80 registered nurses with special expertise in cardiac surgery intensive care
  • Fellows-in-training in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology and cardiac anesthesia, general surgery residents and nurses in a critical care nurse residency program
  • Clinical pharmacists
  • Social workers and case managers
  • Respiratory, physical, occupational and speech therapists
  • Clinical nutritionists
  • Chaplains

What to Expect

Participation of patients and their families in the discussions and plans of care is strongly encouraged. The staff makes every effort to keep the family updated throughout and to support the family's presence in the CSICU. Visiting hours are liberal, with no firm restrictions as to when family may be present. At critical times, such as change of shift or during some procedures, the family may be asked to briefly leave the unit.

The overall length of stay in the CSICU varies, dependent upon the type of surgery. It is not unusual for a patient to transfer to the Cardiac Surgery Step Down Unit within 24 hours. More complex procedures may require longer recovery. Patients typically transfer from CSICU to the Cardiac Surgery Step Down Unit prior to discharge to home.

Highly Rated Cardiac Care

Integrating expertise from Mass General’s Critical Care Center and its Heart Center, the CSICU teams up with leading physicians, nurses and health care providers in setting the standards for heart care. The Cardiac Surgical Service received the highest rating available, three stars, by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for 2008-2009 (the most recent period available) for its positive cardiac surgery outcomes. In addition, Mass General ranks among the top providers of Heart and Heart Surgery care by US News & World Report each year.

Advanced Technologies, Expertise

When community and other hospitals require expertise or technology not available in their own ICUs, they transfer cardiac patients to Mass General’s CSICU. As part of the Partners Healthcare system and the Heart Center, the CSICU shares its knowledge and skill to improve the care in our community, the region and the world.

Contributing to Advances Through Research

CSICU patients benefit from a volume of scientific and clinical research conducted by Mass General cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, critical care intensivists and critical care nursing. Ongoing studies and clinical trials include research on:

  • Heart assist devices
  • Heart transplantation and immunosuppression
  • Percutaneous aortic valve replacement
  • Blood transfusion and reducing clotting complications after CABG surgery

These studies impact, but are not isolated to, critical care of post-cardiac surgical patients.

Training Tomorrow’s Multidisciplinary Critical Care Cardiac Team

In hosting fellows-in-training and general surgical residents, CSICU contributes to the education of next-generation critical care intensivists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and other subspecialties.

Cardiac nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants receive extensive critical care orientation to this highly acute, specialized population of patients, as well as ongoing education to promote evidence-based practice. Specialty certifications and professional development are supported at the unit and organizational levels. Physicians and nurses share their expertise at conferences throughout the organization, nationally and internationally.


U.S. News and World Report Best Hospitals 2015-2016

U.S. News & World Report ranks Mass General the #1 hospital in America based on our quality of care, patient safety and reputation in 16 different specialties. Learn more about why we're #1