Glossary of NICU Terms

Antibiotics - Medicines used to treat infection.

Apnea - Short periods of time when the baby stops breathing. Sometimes when babies have apnea, they need extra oxygen and stimulation.

BAER (“Bear”) Exam - A hearing exam performed on all babies in the NICU prior to discharge.

Bagging - Providing the infant with artificial breaths using an ambu bag.

Betamethasone - A steriod given to the mother by injection prior to delivery to help mature the baby’s lungs by causing the production of Surfactant.

Bilirubin - A product formed by the breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin can be deposited in a baby’s skin causing jaundice (yellow color of the skin).

Blood Transfusions - Special blood given intravenously when the baby is very sick with anemia.

Bradycardia - A slowing of the heart rate.

Chemstrip - A blood test done to determine your baby’s blood sugar level.

Chest Therapy - A respiratory treatment utilizing vibration and a gentle tapping of the chest to help clean mucous in the lungs.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) - The application of air pressure to keep the lungs expanded. CPAP assists the baby’s breathing and can be done through an endotracheal tube or the nose (nasal CPAP).

Echocardiogram - An ultrasound of the heart done to check the heart structures and direction of blood flow.

Electrolytes - Various salt and mineral substances in the blood (potassium, sodium, and calcium).

ETT (Endotrachael Tube) - A breathing tube that is passed through the baby’s mouth into the windpipe. The ETT is attached to a ventilator or breathing machine.

Full-Term - A baby whose gestational age is between 37-41 weeks.

Gestational Age - The baby’s age calculated from the day of conception to the date of delivery.

Head Ultrasound - Premature babies less than 34 weeks gestation will have a series of head ultrasounds to image the brain and to check for bleeding in the brain.

Heelstick - The method of obtaining a blood sample by pricking the baby’s heel.

Hgb (Hemoglobin) - The particle in the blood that carries iron and oxygen. If your baby’s Hgb is low (anemia), your baby’s doctor may order a blood transfusion.

IV (Intravenous) - A very small tube or needle inserted into a vein to provide fluids and/or nutrients to the baby.

IVH (Intraventricular Hemorrhage) - Bleeding in the brain caused by prematurity. There is an increased risk of IVH the more premature the baby. IVH is detected by a head ultrasound.
Jaundice - A yellow color of the baby’s skin caused by bilirubin. If your baby becomes too jaundiced, he/she will be placed under special lights (phototherapy).

Kangaroo Care - Skin-to-skin holding with the parent(s) and their baby.

LGA (Large for Gestational Age) - The baby weighs more than the 90th percentile for age.

Meconium - A dark green material present in the baby’s intestines at birth. Meconium is baby’s first stools.

Monitor - A machine used to observe and record the heart rate/rhythm and respiratory rate.

Neonate - A newborn infant.

Neonatologist - A doctor who is specially trained in the care of premature and sick newborns.

Newborn Screening - Required by state law in all newborns. A sample of blood is sent to the Michigan Department of Public Health to test for 7 common inherited disorders in infants.

OG (Oral Gastric/Gavage Tube) - A small tube passed through the baby’s mouth and into the stomach to feed breastmilk or formula or to check the stomach contents and to release air from the stomach.

OJ Tube (Oral jejunum tube) - A small tube passed through the baby’s mouth, then into the stomach, and into the intestines to feed breastmilk or formula.

Peripheral Arterial Line (Art Line) - A special IV placed in an artery in the baby’s wrist or foot. This line allows the NICU staff to draw blood for laboratory tests and ABGs.

Phototherapy - Used in treatment of jaundice. Florescent lights are placed over the baby or a bili blanket is used to help break down the bilirubin through the skin.

Pneumothorax - A condition in which air escapes from the baby’s lung(s) into the chest cavity and flattens the lung(s).

Premature - An infant who is born before 37 weeks of gestational age.

Radiant Warmer - An open bed with a warmer light above. A warmer is usually the first bed your baby will be in.

RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome) - A lung disorder often seen in premature babies in which there is a tendency for the tiny air sacs in the lungs to collapse because of the absence of surfactant.

Respirator (Ventilator) - A machine that, when hooked up to the endotracheal tube, breathes for the baby or assists with breathing. Babies can be on two different kinds of ventilators, conventional and high frequency (oscillator).

ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) - A complication of prematurity and oxygen therapy that effects the retina of the eye. If your baby is born less than 34 weeks gestation and requires oxygen, he/she will need an eye exam by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) at 6 weeks of age.

SGA (Small for Gestational Age) - The baby weighs less than the 10th percential for age.

Sibling - Brother or sister of the baby.

Suctioning - A method used to suck mucous out of the mouth or lungs so that breathing is easier for the baby.

Survanta - A drug given through the ETT tube and into the lungs to help mature the lungs and to make breathing easier. Survanta is made up of surfactant, which is a fatty substance in the lungs that helps to keep the lungs expanded. Premature babies do not produce sufactant; therefore, their lungs are immature. This condition is known as Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS).

TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) - Intravenous nutrition consisting of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

UAC (Umbilical Artery Catheter) - A very small tube inserted into the umbilical artery (belly button) to provide fluids and/or nutrients to the baby. A UAC allows the NICU staff to draw blood from the baby for laboratory tests.

UVC (Umbilical Venous Catheter) - A very small tube inserted into the umbilical vein (belly button) to provide fluids and/or nutrients to the baby.