BACKGROUND: The present study was designed to examine the purpose of intensive care unit (ICU) admission and the prevalence of disease in postoperative patients admitted to general surgical-medical ICU. METHODS: Between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2007, 646 cases of 612 patients admitted to a general postoperative patients admitted to general surgical-medical ICU were examined. The patients were classified into two groups, ICU treatment and ICU monitoring groups according to Knaus' suggestion which defines the kinds of treatment done exclusively in ICU. Patients' demographics, preoperative American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status classification (ASA) grade, prevalence of disease and emergent operation rate were analyzed. RESULTS: 255 patients (39.5%) were included in the ICU treatment group and 391 cases (60.5%) in the ICU monitoring group. The prevalence of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous diseases was higher significantly in the ICU treatment group. In addition, the average of ASA grade and the duration of operation were higher significantly in the ICU treatment group. CONCLUSION: Admission rate only for monitoring was higher than one for intensive treatment. An alternative strategy should be considered to care for postoperative patients who need just close monitoring.