The Monitor

The Monitor


The monitor displays your child’s “vital signs,” the best measures of how your kiddo is doing and the best way to show if their illness is getting better or worse, on a large screen that can be seen from several different locations. This allows the team to monitor your child’s condition even when they are simply walking by the room or in another part of the ICU. You probably know by now that this thing makes a lot of noise! Monitoring your child’s condition is our job, not yours, so try not to worry about the numbers. Rest assured, someone is watching and unless they come running in to the room, your child is ok. That being said, it’s useful for you to know what the numbers represent and to know that if you are worried about a number or an alarm, you can feel free to ask one of us!

Heart Rate and Rhythm: The top number, in the upper right hand corner, is your child’s heart rate. The squiggly line to the left is the hearts electrical activity, which causes the heart to beat. A “normal” heart rate varies with age, and can also be increased by illness, pain, fever, and/or agitation. It’s important to remember that many variables can affect heart rate, and your doctor can tell you if your child’s heart rate is abnormal or if it’s ok.

Blood Pressure: The blood pressure can be found in two different places, depending on how it’s being measured. If it’s measured by a regular cuff, the value will be in the lower left hand corner, probably in purple. If it’s measured by an arterial line (see “Tubes and Catheters”) you’ll see the blood pressure in red along the right hand side. Just like heart rate, the blood pressure can change based on a number of factors and it’s up to your team to decide if it’s too high or too low based on what’s going on with your child.

Oxygen Level: Usually referred to as “the sats,” which is short for “saturation.” This measure tells the team what percentage of the blood is carrying oxygen. Some people use a transportation analogy, like boxcars on a train or a car. For example, if you have a car that can hold four people but only has two people, then the car is 50% full. If the car has four people in it, then it is 100% full. Similarly, if the blood only has half as much oxygen as it could have, the “sat” will be 50%. The “normal” oxygen level is usually 100% or slightly below, but there are occasions when a lower number is tolerated, such as with lung disease or a heart defect.

Breathing Rate: This number, usually found on the right hand side or in the right lower corner, can tell you how fast your child is breathing. Like with everything else, what’s normal for your child depends on their age, their illness, and their condition. This number, too, is notorious for being inaccurate because it can pick up the heart rate or other movements and count it as a breath when in fact it wasn’t.