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NICU glossary

Articles

NICU glossary

Trish

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Alveoli The small air sacs in the lungs.

Amniotic fluid The liquid that surrounds the fetus inside the mother's uterus.

Anemia A condition of lower than normal red blood cell levels (hemoglobin & hematocrit) in the blood.

Apnea A period of time when the baby does not take a breath, which may or may not be accompanied by bradycardia and/or desaturation.

Aspiration The drawing in of foreign matter or other material in the upper respiratory tract into the lungs. Aspiration also refers to a medical procedure in which fluids are sucked out of the lungs, nose, or mouth using a suction device.

Aversion, oral A negative association with anything placed in or near the mouth.

Bacteria Single-cell microorganisms that can cause infection, but can also be protective or helpful.

Bagging Helping the baby to breathe by giving "breaths" to baby by connecting a resuscitation bag either to a mask over the mouth or to a tube in the trachea and lung.

Bilirubin A chemical created by the breakdown of the red blood cells. It is normally converted by the liver and disposed of mainly in the stool.  A build-up of this substance in the body causes yellow coloring of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Nearly all babies have some jaundice, including healthy full-term babies.

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Bilirubin lights (bili lights, phototherapy) See Phototherapy

Blood gas A test using a small amount of blood to measure levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in the blood, which is an important test to help determine the baby's respiratory status.

Blood glucose (blood sugar) The concentration of glucose (sugar) in the body.

Bradycardia A slower than normal heartbeat; often occurs with apnea.

Bulb syringe A tool used to apply suction to remove secretions from the nose and mouth of the infant.

Caffeine A medication that stimulates the central nervous system, which can be given to infants to reduce apnea of prematurity.

Cardio respiratory Monitor This measures a babies breathing and heart rate. 3 self adhesive disks with leads attached are placed on baby’s chest to read babies respiratory and heart rate. These readings can be viewed on a screen or monitor and if either measurement read above or below an acceptable limit, an alarm sounds to alert medical staff.

Care conference A meeting of the health care team and parents, during which the baby's overall situation is discussed. Updates are given to parents on the baby's health, treatments, care plans, progress, concerns, expectations. It is a time for parent involvement in the decision making process.

Catheter A thin, flexible tube which is a path to deliver fluids into the body or drains fluids out.

Chest tube A tube inserted through the chest wall; used to suction air and/or fluids from the chest.

Chorioamnionitis (Chorio) An infection of the membranes that contain the amniotic fluid inside the uterus.

Colostrum The thick yellow or clear milk produced by the breasts of pregnant women (sometimes as early as 16 weeks pregnant), which changes to mature breast milk within a few days of delivery. This substance is rich in immune factors as well as protein, and is considered extremely beneficial to the newborn.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) A continuous amount of air, sometimes with added oxygen, delivered through tubes in the babies nose or via a mask, to help keep the air sacs of the lungs open as baby breathes.

Corrected age The age of your baby based in it's due date, rather than on it's actual birth date. Calculated by actual age minus the number of weeks early your baby was born. For example, a baby who was born 24 weeks ago, but who was born 10 weeks prematurely has a corrected age of 14 weeks. This helps determine the developmental expectations of a preterm infant.

Culture A labroatory test which determines the presence and type of an infection. It is performed by taking a sample of blood or body fluids, and placing that sample in a nutritive substance to determine if microroganisms grow, and identifies which organisms are growing.

Cyanosis A bluish coloring of the skin and lips caused by a low level of oxygen in the blood.

Dependence, drug The condition of the body being accustomed to the presence of a drug, and to the drug's effects. Characterized by symptoms of withdrawl when the drug is no longer available.

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Dusky A term to describe the bluish color of the skin and mucous membranes associated with cyanosis.

Edema The collection of extra fluid in body tissues, causing swelling or puffiness of skin.

Electrode A sensor which sends heartbeat and breathing information to the monitor. They can be placed on the chest, arms, or legs. Also called leads.

Electrolytes Chemicals in the blood: Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, which are essential for healthy cell functioning.

Endotracheal tube (ET tube) A plastic tube inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea (windpipe) to help breathing; usually connected to a ventilator (breathing machine). (Inserting the ETT tube is called intubation, removal is called extubation)

Extubation Removing an endotracheal tube.

Fontanel The soft spot on the top of a baby's head, which is a normal opening between the bones of the skull.

Nasogastric tube (NG tube) A flexible tube inserted through the nose into the stomach. The tube delivers nutrients and medications, and removes undigested food and fluids from the stomach.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER, reflux) A condition that occurs when contents of the stomach move back up into the esphagus, which many preterm infants grow out of, but some may benefit from medication or surgery.

Gavage feeding (tube feeding) Feeding a baby through a tube inserted into the stomach (or sometimes the intestines).

Gestational age The length of time from conception to birth (how long the baby stays in the womb). Full-term gestation is between 38 and 42 weeks.

Grunting The noise made by an infant during exhalation that indicates the baby is having difficulty breathing. It is a way to prevent the alveoli (small air sacs) of the lungs from deflating after each breath.

Hematocrit The percentage of red blood cells in the blood, which is an indication of the baby's ability to deliver oxygen to the tissues of the body.

Hemoglobin The substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells of the body.

Heparin A medication that prevents blood from clotting.

Hernia A protrusion of an internal organ through a body part that normally contains it. (Preterm infants may often have portion of the intestines protrude through the abdominal wall to the skin under the umbilicus (umbilical hernia), or into the groin(inguinal hernia).)

High frequency ventilation (HFV) A type of ventilator which gives very small breathes at a very fast rate; making the baby’s chest vibrate.

Hydrocephalus A backup of spinal fluid within the ventricles of the brain, causing enlargement of the ventricles and increased pressure.

Hypoxia A low level of oxygen in the body tissue.

Incubator (Isolette) A transparent enclosed bed space for infants, which allows for controlling the temperature and humidity of the infant's surroundings, as well as providing a barrier to noise as well as infectious agents.

Infection The invasion of a harmful microorganism into the body cells/tissues.

Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) Bleeding within the brain, ranging in severity from grade 1 (within the germinal matrix) to grade 4 (into the brain tissues and surrounding ventricles). Also called intracranial hemorrhage, or 'a bleed'.

Intravenous line (IV) A hollow plastic tube inserted into a vein; used to give fluids, blood, and or medications. Also called a peripheral IV, or PIV.

Intubation Inserting a tube through the nose or mouth into the trachea (windpipe).

Jaundice The buildup of excess bilirubin in the fatty tissues of the body, which causes a yellow discoloration of a baby’s skin and eyes.

Kangaroo Care The practice of holding an infant skin-to-skin in order to provide benefit to both parent and infant. Benefits have been shown to include facilitated parent-infant attachment, stabilized vital signs, enhanced sleep/wake states, improved feeding tolerance and increased weight gain, among others.

Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) A procedure during which a needle is inserted into the lower back in order to obtain spinal fluid.

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Meconium The first bowel movement/stool passed by a newborn, usually dark green and sticky.

Meconium aspiration syndrome A severe breathing problem resulting from an infant inhaling meconium into the airways while the baby is still in utero or during delivery.

Nasal Canula A small plastic tube placed under the nose to provide oxygen.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) A serious bowel inflammation, most commonly see in preterm infants, with no single known cause.

Neonate A newborn infant, less than 28 days old.

Neonatologist A physician who specializes in neonatology, which is the care of critically ill newborn infants.

Nest, nesting To provide boundaries around an infant, with blankets, hands or even specialty products, in order to help infant feel contained, supported.

Oscillator A type of high frequency ventilator.

Oxygen Saturation The amount of oxygen that is bound to the hemoglobin in the blood, which is a general indicator of the baby's oxygenation. This is generally measured by a pulse oximeter.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) The ductus arteriosus is a small vessel (ductus) between the major arteries of the heart and the lungs which allows oxygen-rich blood to bypass the lungs before a baby is born. Shortly after birth, this ductus generally closes, but if it remains open (patent), it can interfere with oxygenated blood getting to the body.

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) A flexible, thin IV tube put into a vein in the arm, foot, or leg and then routed up into, or near, the heart.

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of Newborns (PPHN) A serious condition in which high blood pressure in the lungs' arteries forces blood away from the lungs, leaving the blood only partially oxygenated through the lungs, which in turn results in very low oxygen levels, plus a higher blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Also called persistent fetal circulation (PFC).

Phototherapy Fluorescent lights that reduce jaundice; help break down the bilirubin in the skin by breaking down indirect bilirubin, making it possible for the baby's system to excrete it in the urine. Baby is undressed to expose as much skin surface as possible; the baby’s eyes are covered with patches or a mask.

Pneumothorax (pneumo) Air that has escaped from the lung and is trapped between the lung and the chest wall.

Pulse oximeter An electronic monitor that detects oxygen saturation in the blood using a light sensor probe.

Pulmonary Having to do with the lungs.

Radiant warmer (warmer) An infant bed with a heat source attached. It provides easy access to and visibility of infant, while providing adequate warmth.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) A breathing condition that causes the tiny air sacs in the lungs to collapse, making it very difficult to breathe. Usually due to lung immaturity and lack of a natural lung chemical (surfactant). Also called hyaline membrane disease.

Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV) A virus that causes infection of the upper and lower respiratory tract, which is a major cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in infants and children, particularly ex-preemies. A prophylactic medicine called palivizumab is given to prevent this infection in high-risk patients.

Retinopathy Of Prematurity (ROP) An eye disease, involving the retina that can occur in premature infants, which involves rapid and irregular growth of the blood vessels of the retina, which can lead to bleeding, scarring, and potentially retinal detachment and blindness in severe cases. Laser surgery can be performed to treat ROP.

Room air The air we breathe in the environment, which contains 21% oxygen.

Rounds The time when the health care team discusses and reviews a patient's condition, care plan, prognosis, treatments, etc.

Sepsis A serious, generalized illness, caused by the immune system's response to infection. Most commonly sepsis is caused by bacteria, but can also be caused by fungi, viruses, and parasites in the blood or other tissues.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) The sudden death of an infant (younger than 1 year), which is unexplained by the infant's medical history, death scene or autopsy.

Surfactant A substance in the lungs that coats the alveoli and helps prevent the tiny air sacs from collapsing and sticking together. A lack of this substance contributes to Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). Manufactured surfactant (natural or artificial) is used to treat lack of surfactant due to prematurity.

Tachycardia A faster than normal heart rate.

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Tachypnea A faster than normal breathing rate.

Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) The delivery of nutrition (protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, sugar) and hydration through an intravenous line.

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTN) A condition when a baby breathes with quick, shallow breathes (usually over 80 breaths per minute), which it is often caused by fluid in the lungs and will improve as this fluid is absorbed. May require supportive care, such as oxygen supplementation.

Umbilical Catheter, Arterial or Venous (UAC, UVC) A tube inserted through the umbilical cord into the blood vessels - UAC is in one of the umbilical arteries, the UVC is in the umbilical vein. Either tube is used to give the baby fluids and to draw blood samples. The UAC is used to monitor the baby’s blood pressure. There are no sensory nerves in the umbilical cord, so placing the catheter is painless.

Ventilator A machine which assists breathing, by delivering or supporting breaths and by delivering air/oxygen mixtures as needed. Also called a respirator.

Virus A microorganism that can infect and multiply in the cells of the body, causing infection. Different from bacteria, do not respond to antibiotics.