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In medicine, critical condition is the worst physical state a patient can be in and still be alive. In most cases, this means that the patient is in an intensive care unit (ICU) and that the chance of death within 24 hours is high. There are several other ratings often used by hospitals, but their definitions are inconsistent. Such terms are mostly generated for the benefit of news media, and doctors rarely use use the phrases in their daily business, preferring to deal with medical problems in greater detail.

A common progression might look like this:

  • Critical condition - high risk of death within 24 hours
  • Serious condition - reduced risk of death within 24 hours, but requiring frequent observation
  • Stable condition - no major fluctuation in vital signs
  • Good condition - little significant injury, patient may be discharged shortly

However, a range of different terms are used, including things like extremely critical condition, critical but stable condition, serious but stable condition, satisfactory condition, and others. Definition varies between hospitals, and it is even possible for a patient to be upgraded or downgraded simply by being moved from one place to another, with no change in actual physical state.