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Common NICU Terms

  • NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit): This is a specialized hospital unit where newborns, especially premature ones or those with health issues, receive intensive medical care.


  • Preemie: A preemie is a baby who is born prematurely, before reaching 37 weeks of pregnancy.


  • Low Birth Weight: Low birth weight describes babies born weighing less than 5 pounds 8 ounces.


  • Incubator/ Isolette: An incubator (aka isolette) is a controlled environment, like a warm bed, used to maintain the temperature and protect premature babies.


  • RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome): RDS is a condition marked by breathing difficulties due to underdeveloped lungs, often seen in preemies.


  • Ventilator: A ventilator is a machine that assists babies in breathing by delivering oxygen and helping them get enough air.


  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): CPAP is a device that helps babies breathe more easily by providing continuous air pressure.


  • Feeding Tube: This is a tube used to directly provide nutrition to a baby's stomach when they can't feed by mouth.


  • NPO (Nothing by Mouth): This term indicates that a baby should not be fed orally for a specific period.


  • Vital Signs: These are essential physiological measures, including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and temperature.


  • Apnea: Apnea is a condition in which a baby briefly stops breathing, which can be concerning.


  • Bradycardia: Bradycardia refers to an abnormally slow heart rate in a baby, which requires medical attention.


  • Desaturation: Desaturation refers to a drop in oxygen levels in the baby's blood, which is closely monitored.


  • A&B: This term is sometimes used as shorthand for apnea and bradycardia, two common NICU issues.


  • Jaundice: Jaundice is a condition characterized by the yellowing of a baby's skin and eyes, often caused by elevated bilirubin levels.


  • Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a substance that, when elevated, can cause jaundice; monitoring levels is important in NICU care.


  • Phototherapy: Phototherapy involves using special lights to treat jaundice and reduce bilirubin levels.


  • Kangaroo Care: Kangaroo care involves holding your baby skin-to-skin for bonding and comfort.

  • EEG (Electroencephalogram): An EEG is a test that measures brain activity.

  • IVH (Intraventricular Hemorrhage): IVH is bleeding in the brain's ventricles, which can be a concern in premature infants.


  • PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus): PDA is a heart condition that may require medical treatment.


  • ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity): ROP is an eye condition affecting premature babies' vision.


  • NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis): NEC is a severe gastrointestinal disease that occurs in some preterm infants.


  • Neonatologist: A neonatologist is a doctor who specialized in caring for newborns, particularly those in the NICU


Feel free to ask if you'd like more information about any of these terms or have further questions!

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