The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU can be overwhelming and often feels as if it has a language all of its own. Here is a list of some of the common medical terms and abbreviations you may hear in the NICU. While this list aims at being comprehensive, it is certainly not exhaustive. If your baby's nurse or doctor uses a term that you don't understand, be sure to ask for clarification.
a decrease in the baby
s red blood cell count; red blood cells carry oxygen.
a pause in breathing.
Apgar score -
A numerical scoring system, usually applied at one and five minutes after the birth of all newborn babies. This is to evaluate the condition of the baby based on heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, and color. The score is used by the doctor and nurse to determine if the baby needs assistance.
the temporary stopping of breathing by the baby, for 20 seconds or more.
Apnea Monitor -
A monitor that is connected to the baby with a sensor to specifically detect apnea.
when a baby breathes in mucus or milk.
a test to measure the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in the baby
s blood. The blood sample may be from an artery
, or capillary
. Changes in the baby
s respiratory care can occur as a result of this test.
BP (blood pressure) -
A type of measurement. BP is the force of the blood on blood vessel walls. This is caused by the heart beating and by the muscles inside the blood vessel walls.
a yellow pigmented waste product from old red blood cells that is excreted by the liver into the stool.
a slower than normal heart rate.
pertaining to the heart.
CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography)
a test also known as a
that gives a 3-D view of the body
s internal organs and structures. Medication may be given to your baby to help him or her to remain completely still during the scan procedure.
a tube that either drains fluid from the body or puts fluid into the body.
Umbilical Catheter - Artery or Venous (UAC, UVC)
- a tube
that goes into either the artery or vein in the
(umbilical cord stump).
Central Line Catheter -
a tube that goes into a large or central
vein. It is usually placed for long-term nutrition from IV
fluids that will provide protein and calories. Two types you
might hear about are Broviac or percutaneous (
Urinary Catheter -
a tube that goes into the baby
s bladder to
gentle tapping on the baby
s chest to help mobilize secretions (mucus) to be removed by suctioning
CBC (Complete Blood Count)
a measure of the type and number of cells in the blood. This is often part of an evaluation to check for infection or a way to determine the number of red blood cells.
CNS (central nervous system) -
The brain and spinal cord.
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
- A way to give a steady, gentle supply of air into the airway while a baby is breathing on his or her own. This can be done with a ventilator (breathing machine).
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
- A way to get the heart and lungs working again if they have
an ultrasound of the heart.
recordings of the electrical activity of the brain. The EEG may be useful in recording seizures
study of the electrical activity of the heart
Endotracheal tube (ET tube)
a flexible tube inserted through the baby
s mouth or nose into the trachea ( the large airway from the mouth to the lungs)
removal of the endotracheal tube (ET tube).
pertaining to fever.
The large soft spot on the top, and the smaller one on the back of the baby
s head. They will close within 12 and 18 months.
if a baby cannot breastfeed or bottlefeed by sucking; a small tube is placed into the mouth or nose; the end of the tube is in the stomach. The feeding is given by gravity flow through the tube. This is also called tube feeding.
: born less than or equal to 36 weeks gestation
40 weeks gestation
(9 months + 4 weeks after your last period)
Post Date (Post-Term):
after 42 weeks gestation
Grams and kilograms -
Metric units of weight. 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces. 1 kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.
a way to easily draw small amounts of blood from the baby
s heel for laboratory work.
percent of red blood cells in the blood, part of the CBC. This is often used to determine if a blood transfusion is necessary due to anemia or low blood volume.
near the end of your baby
s hospitalization, it may be recommended that your baby be vaccinated with the Hepatitis B vaccine to prevent a viral illness of the liver for which we are all at risk. You will need to grant permission to do so.
HFV (high-frequency ventilator) -
A machine that gives hundreds of tiny breaths per minute.
IMV (intermittent mandatory ventilation) -
A way to help babies breathe using a ventilator to give a set number of breaths per minute.
Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)
bleeding in or around the brain.
insertion of the endotracheal tube (ET tube).
intravenous, method of delivering medicine, fluids or nourishment (liquid food) directly into the body through a vein.
A tiny flexible, hollow plastic tube inserted into a
vein over a needle. The needle comes out and the catheter stays
in the vein.
A machine used to give IV fluids.
a yellow coloring of the skin or the whites of the eyes due to an increase in bilirubin; a normal by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells.
Lumbar Puncture (LP)
a small sample of fluid is taken from the space around the nerve endings in the lower back to check for infection. The procedure is also known as spinal tap. It is often part of a sepsis work-up to check for infection.
Dark greenish waste products that accumulate in the bowel during fetal life and are eliminated shortly after birth.
Meconium Aspiration -
The condition in which the baby breathes in meconium that is in the amniotic fluid.
mL (milliliter) -
A metric unit of volume. 30 mL equals about 1 fluid ounce.
MRI Scans (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
a test also called a
that gives a horizontal or cross-sectional picture of internal organs and structures. Medication may be given to your baby to help him or her to remain completely still during this procedure. This is a painless procedure for your baby. It uses magnetic energy.
a small plastic tube placed under the nose to provide oxygen.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
a serious disease of the intestinal tract sometimes requiring antibiotics and/or surgery.
often referred to as the
test, checks a baby for certain serious medical conditions that may go undetected without such testing. All states require newborn screening to be performed on babies who are born in that state. The conditions that are screened for will vary by state; however, phenylketonuria (PKU), sickle cell disease, and HIV are examples of conditions for which tests are typically performed.
NG tube (nasogastric tube):
A feeding tube. It goes through the nose to the stomach.
Nothing by Mouth (NPO)
is the abbreviation for
nothing by mouth.
The baby cannot be fed by mouth at this time.
O2 (oxygen) -
A gas in the air we breathe. It is needed for life.
OG tube (orogastric tube) -
A feeding tube. It goes through the mouth into the stomach.
a plastic hood used to deliver humidified oxygen to the baby.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
the Ductus Arteriosus is a normal blood vessel between the major arteries of the heart that usually closes after birth. If it does not close, it is called a Patent (Open) Ductus Arteriosus and may require medication and/or surgery, called PDA ligation.
Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) or percutaneous central venous catheter (PCVC) -
A type of tube that is put into a central (large) vein.
an infection in the lung.
pertaining to the lungs.
number of heartbeats per minute
Radiant warmer bed -
An open bed with a heating device.
pertaining to the kidneys
Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)
a breathing problem common to premature babies where the tiny air sacs of the lungs tend to collapse at the end of each breath, due to a lack of surfactant (defined below). It is also known as
Hyaline Membrane Disease (HMD).
when the healthcare team meets to discuss patient care.
a watery solution that contains a small amount of salt and is often used to administer medicine.
abnormal, purposeless, repetitive movements of the arms, legs, eyes, or mouth are known as seizure activity in the newborn. It requires further evaluation to determine its cause.
a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection in the blood.
when an infection is suspected, blood, urine or spinal fluid will be drawn for culture to confirm the presence or absence of an infection.
a device that is inserted into the body to redirect the flow of blood or other fluid from one area to another
SIMV (synchronized intermittent mandatory ventilation) -
IMV timed with the baby
a mixture of saliva and mucus that is coughed up from the respiratory tract
an abnormal narrowing of a passageway, such as a blood vessel or other type of opening in the body.
device used to inject fluids (e.g., medicine) into IV, muscle, or vein; also used without a needle to give medicine in the mouth
removal of secretions from the baby
s nose, mouth, throat and/or endotracheal tube with a small plastic tube connected to suction.
a substance formed in the lungs that help keep the tiny air sacs or alveoli from collapsing and sticking together. A lack of surfactant in premature babies contributes to Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).
an abnormal rapid heartbeat.
Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN); Intralipids
IV fluids fed straight into the bloodstream that provide a baby who is unable to feed with necessary nutrients: protein, sugar, fat, minerals, and vitamins.
Temperature, pulse, and respiration.
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTNB)
a breathing problem common in full-term babies typically from slower than normal removal of fluid in the lungs before birth.
a type of radiologic test in which echoes of high frequency sound waves provide a picture of the body tissues.
Vital Signs (VS)
s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory (breathing) rate.