Ron J. Karni, MD, and otherOtorhinolaryngologists, pulmonary intensivists and critical care nurses work hand in hand to treat adult patients with complex conditions in the new ENT Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. The 10-bed unit serves the academic medical center’s rapidly expanding otorhinolaryngology service line.

“A dedicated ENT ICU is a natural outgrowth of our surgical volume increase and our mission to provide exceptional patient care,” says Ron J. Karni, MD, chief of the division of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology at Memorial Hermann-TMC and an associate professor who holds joint appointments in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the Division of Oncology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “The patients we most commonly treat in intensive care are those with head and neck cancer who undergo an airway procedure, tracheostomy or a free-flap reconstruction. Other patients who require hourly monitoring include complex trauma patients who return for reconstructive procedures and complex skull base surgery patients who benefit from the combined expertise of otorhinolaryngology and neurosurgery. We’ve provided critical care for these patients for years but thanks to the support of Memorial Hermann, we now have the bricks and mortar we need to further develop our center of excellence.”

Nurses who staff the unit are experienced in complex ENT critical care cases and support the otorhinolaryngologists and team of pulmonary intensivists led by Bela Patel, MD, professor and division director of critical care medicine and vice dean of healthcare quality at McGovern Medical School. “If you’ve had head and neck cancer surgery, this is the team you want to provide your care,” Dr. Karni says. “Our nurses are well trained and understand the complexity of sensitive airway anatomy. Because we work in the context of a university hospital, patients have access to specialists from every discipline. The patients we care for are comfortable in the knowledge that this is not our first rodeo.”