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NICU Terms You May Need to Know 

Apnea – Lack of breath lasting greater than 20 seconds.

Bagging – Helping your baby breathe by gently pushing oxygen into his lungs from a resuscitation bag through a special mask placed over his nose and mouth.

Bilirubin – Jaundice-causing substance in the bloodstream resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells.

Blood Gases – Tests done on a small amount of blood withdrawn from the baby's heel or umbilical catheter which evaluate how well your baby is breathing.

Bradycardia – Slowing of heart rate to less than 80 beats/minute.

Catheter – Thin, clear plastic tubing placed in a vein or artery, usually for IV's.

Chest Tube – Plastic tube placed in a chest cavity and connected to a suction machine to remove air trapped outside the lung.

Cyanosis – Bluish skin color due to inadequate oxygen level in the baby's blood, also called duskiness.

Desaturation – A drop in the oxygen level in the baby's blood, usually due to ineffective breathing.

Gavage – A method of feeding formula or breast milk to your baby through a tube passed from the mouth or nose into the stomach.

Gestational Age – A baby's age from conception to present.

Hyaline Membrane Disease – See Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Hyperalimentation (HA) – A method of feeding special IV fluid containing necessary nutrients and calories to babies not yet ready to tolerate formula or breast milk. Also called Total Parenteral Nutrition or TPN.

Incubator or Isolette – A plexiglass-covered bed in which the temperature oxygen and humidity can be controlled. Access to your baby is through portholes in the sides of the isolette.

Intralipid – Fat solution given with hyperalimentation.

Intramuscular (IM) – An injection or shot of medication given into the muscle.

Intubation – Insertion of an endotracheal tube into the windpipe.

Jaundice – A yellowish discoloration of the skin caused by excess bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice is treated by putting the baby under phototherapy.

Meconium – Baby's first bowel movement, usually black and tarry.

NPO – Nothing by mouth, i.e., not fed orally.

Obstetrician – Doctor who delivers babies and specializes in the care of women.

Oxyhood – Clear, plastic cover placed over the baby's head which delivers oxygen to a baby lying on a radiant warmer.

Pediatrician – Doctor who cares for babies and children.

Phototherapy – Treatment that exposes the baby's skin to special lights (with eyes protected) to eliminate jaundice. Also called "bili light."

Pneumothorax – Condition in which air within the chest but outside the lung causes the lung to collapse.

Premature – Born before a gestational age of 38 weeks.

Radiant warmer – Open bed with overhead heating lamp.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome - A breathing disorder caused by immature lungs. Also called Hyaline Membrane Disease.

Retractions – Hard breathing in which the ribs show and the breast bone sinks.

Self-Limiting – Ability to recover from and apnea or bradycardia without stimulation.

Spells – See definitions for apnea and bradycardia.

Tachycardia – Increase in heart rate greater than 180 beats/min.

Tachpnea – Increase in breathing rate greater than 60 breaths/min.

Vital Signs – Temperature, heart rate, breathing rate.

Weaning – Gradually reducing baby's dependence on the ventilator

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