When having a preemie in the NICU, there are lots of new words you will hear and unfortunately learn over the course of your childs stay. Here are a few words and their definitions of things that affected Claire while she was a new preemie in the NICU (info taken from "The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies" by Dana Wechsler Linden, Emma Trenti Paroli, and Mia Wechsler Doron, MD. This book was a lifesaver for us while Claire was in the NICU and this past year at home. I highly recommend it!).
- Aterial line: similar to an intravenous, or IV line, an arterial line goes into an artery instead of a vein. A tiny catheter in an artery can be used to measure blood pressure, draw blood, or give fluids.
- Bilirubin: a yellow substance that the body makes all the time, as red blood cells are broken down. When bilirubin builds up in the body, it turns the skin a yellowish tinge, called jaundice.
- Bradycardia (or "brady"): a slower than normal heart rate, in preemies it most often results from apnea (an overly long pause in breathing).
- Central line: a long-term intravenous catheter placed in a large, deep blood vessel close to the heart.
- Cyanosis: a bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin caused by insufficient oxygen.
- Gavage feeding: feeding a baby by way of a soft tube inserted in his/her mouth or nose, going down into the stomach.
- Guaiac: this is a test performed on a sample of a baby's stool, to see whether there is any blood in it that isn't visible to the naked eye.
- Isolette: a transparent plastic box, equipped with a heating system, to keep premature babies warm. Isolettes used to be known as incubators.
- Jaundice: a yellowish discoloration of the skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the body.
- Kangaroo care: a way to hold your naked baby skin-to-skin, against your bare chest, inside your shirt or covered by a blanket, like a baby kangaroo in his mother's pouch.
- Nasal cannula: a set of plastic prongs and tubing that can deliver extra oxygen into a baby's nose.
- NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis): an intestinal disease, most common in young preemies, in which portions of the bowel are damaged or destroyed because of poor blood flow, inflammation, or infection.
- Neonatologist: a pediatrician with specialized training in newborn intensive care.
- NG (naso-gastric) tube: a soft tube that goes through a baby's nose down into his/her stomach. It can be used for feeding or to empty the stomach of gas.
- NICU: short for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. An NICU is a hospital ward where preemies who require complex medical care are taken care of, along with other critically ill or medically unstable newborns.
- Parenteral nutrition: nutrition that is giving intravenously, rather than through the stomach and the intestines.
- PDA (patent ductus arteriosus): an open blood vessel near the heart and lungs which is a necessary part of a fetus's circulation, a PDA should normally close a few days after birth. If it lingers, as it often does in preemie babies, it can cause breathing difficulties and some heart failure.
- Periodic breathing: an irregular breathing pattern. Because of immaturity, it's normal for a preemie to take some deep breaths, and then pause for five to ten seconds before taking the next one.
- Peripheral IVs: intravenous lines that to into "peripheral" veins, meaning small blood vessels near the skin's surface, usually in the baby's extremities or scalp.
- Radiant warmer: an open bed with an overhead heater, on which a premature infant who needs frequent medical attention can be kept warm.
- ROP (retinopathy of prematurity): an eye disease of premature babies, in which new, abnormal blood vessels grown near the retina, and temporarily or permanently damage it.
- Surfactant: a natural substance in the lungs that helps keep the air sacs expanded, it is deficient in premature babies who suffer from RDS. Replacement surfactant can be given to babies who don't produce enough of their own.
- TPN (total parenteral nutrition): a nourishing solution - containing protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients - that is given to a baby intravenously.
The Scott Family