Glossary

a

ABO incompatibility
Blood incompatibility between the mother and fetus that can result in destruction of fetal red blood cells, jaundice and anemia
Adjusted Age
Used most appropriately to describe children up to 3 years of age who were born preterm. Corrected age or adjusted age is calculated by subtracting the number of weeks born before 40 weeks or gestation from the chronological age.
Anemia
One of the more common blood disorder, anemia occurs when the level of healthy red blood cells in the body becomes too low.
Apgar Score
A scoring system that helps the physician estimate a baby's general condition at birth. The test measures a baby's heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response, and color at 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes of life. Named after its creator, Virginia Apgar.
Apnea
A pause in breathing that lasts longer than 20 seconds. Apnea of Prematurity occurs in babies who are born prematurely. Because the brain or respiratory system may be immature or underdeveloped, the baby may not be able to regulate his or her own breathing.
Artery
Blood vessel that carries oxygen to all parts of the body.
Asphyxia
Lack of oxygen.
Aspiration
Inhaling a foreign object, such as food, medicine, or meconium.
Attending Physician
The physician who has been selected by or assigned to the patient and who has assumed primary responsibility for the treatment and care of the patient.
Audiologist
A medical professional with 6 years of training who treats patients with hearing, balance, and related ear problems.

b

Bagging
Pumping air or oxygen into a baby's lungs by squeezing a bag or air into a mask placed over the baby's mouth and nose, or through an endotracheal tube.
Betamethasone
Corticosteroid given to the mother before the baby is born to stimulate fetal lung maturation and to decrease the frequency and damage from intracranial hemorrhage in premature babies.
Bilirubin
Bilirubin is a breakdown product of hemoglobin, the substance in blood that carries oxygen. Normally, bilirubin pases through the liver and is excreted as bile through the intestine. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up faster than a newborn's liver can break it down and pass it from the body.
Birth Defect
Abnormality of structure, function or body metabolism (inborn error of body chemistry) present at birth that results in physical and or mental disability, or it is fatal.
Blood Gases
Levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
Breast Pump
A machine to collect breast milk without the baby present. A hospital-grade breast pump is often more powerful than those for home use, and may be available for rental.
Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BDP)
a chronic lung disorder that is most commom among children who were born prematurely, with low birth weights, and who received prolonged mechanical ventilation.

c

Cannula
A slender tube that sits below the nose and can be used to deliver oxygen.
Cardiopulmonary Monitor
Machine that tracks heart and breathing rates.
Catheter
A hollow, flexible tube for insertion into a body cavity, duct or vessel to allow the passage of fluids, or distend or drain a passageway or body cavity. Its uses include delivery of intravenous fluids, the drainage of urine from the bladder through the urethra or insertion through a blood vessel into the heart for diagnostic purposes.
Central Venous Line
A narrow tube that is placed into a blood vessel and passed into a larger blood vessel in the chest or abdomen. It is used to receive medicine, IV nutrition, and to draw blood.
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Appearing in the first few years of life, this diagnosis means the child will have abnormal muscle tone (too tight or too loose) and might also have problems moving parts of their body. The extent of the problem may not be fully known until about age 2 years.
Chicken Pox (Varicella)
Common childhood illness characterized by an itchy rash and fever. When contracted by a pregnant woman, it can occasionally cause birth defects or sever newborn illness. Chicken pox is highly contagious.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
Air that is delivered to a baby's lungs either through small tubes in the baby's nose or through a tube that has been inserted into his windpipe. The tubes are attached to a ventilator, which helps the baby breathe, but does not breathe for him.
Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan)
imaging technique that produces precise pictures of tissue using a narrow beam of radiation and computer processing of a services of images.
Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia
Birth defect involving an opening in the diaphragm, the large muscle that separates the chest and abdomen. Abdominal organs, such as the stomach, liver, and intestines, can move through the opening into the chest where they interfere with lung development.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
This machine pushes a continuous flow of air or oxygen, through small tubes that fit into the baby's nostrils (called CPAP), to the airways to help keep tiny air passages in the lungs open.
Cryotherapy
Freezing of abnormal tissue to halt its growth, This form of treatment can be used in severe cases of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) but, more recently, cryotherapy for ROP has been largely replaced by laser therapy.
Cubic Centimeter (cc)
A metric unit of volume equal to one-thousandth of a liter (a milliliter). There are 30 cc in a fluid ounce.
Culture
A laboratory test that detects infections in the body by placing samples in special nutrients that allow bacteria to grow. most current culture systems monitor bacterial growth for up to 7 days.
Cyanosis
A blue or gray discoloration of the skin caused by insufficient oxygen.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
A viral infection that, when contracted by a pregnant woman, can result in severe newborn illness, and sometimes lead to chronic disabilities such as mental retardation or vision and hearing loss. CMV also can be acquired after birth and can lead to hearing loss.

d

Developmental Delays
The failure to meet certain milestones, such as rolling, sitting, walking, and talking at the average age.
Developmental Pediatrician
These physicians have 10 years of training and specialize in evaluating and treating problems with child development. They assess the level of development of premature babies from both the motor (movement) and intellectual (learning) viewpoints.

e

Early Ubtervebtuib Program (EI)
Early intervention refers to services that are provided to children aged 3 years or younger, who have or might develop a special need that may affect their development.
Echocardiogram
The use of ultrasound to view the structure and function of the heart.
Electrocardiogram (EKG)
Measurement of electrical activity of the heart from a number of specific viewpoints. This activity is detected through adhesive patches placed on the chest, arms, and legs. Electrodes A conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit.
Electroencephalogram (EEG)
A noninvasive and painless study, in which electrodes placed on the scalp record the electrical activity of the brain. To conduct their study, metal electrodes have to be temporarily glue to the scalp.
Endotracheal Tube (ET Tube)
A tube that is placed down a newborn's trachea (windpipe) and delivers warm humidified air and oxygen to the lungs.
Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
In babies, this machine usually is used to allow the lungs to rest and recover from disease or medical conditions. ECMO is similar to the heart-lung bypass that is used in the operation room for heart surgery, but, in newborns it is used for longer periods of time. It is also called extracorporeal life support (ECLS).
Extremely Low BIrth Weight
Extremely low birth weight babies refer to babies with a birth weight of less that 1,000 g or 2 lbs 3 oz. Extremely Premature babies born between 23 and 27 weeks' gestation.

f

Failure to Thrive
The failure to gain weight as expected, which is often accompanied by poor height growth.
Fellow
Physician who has completed medical school, internship, and a residency, and currently is undergoing very specialized (subspecialty) training in one particular field of study. Neonatology fellows are training to become specialists in newborn medicine.
Fontanelle or Fontanel
"Soft spots" between the parts of a baby's skull that will later grow together.

g

Gastroenterologist
A physician with specialized training in diagnosing and treating diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and digestive system.
Gastroesophageal Reflux
This occurs when gastric juice from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Adults refer to this as "heartburn" although it has nothing to do with the heart.
Gastrointestinal Tract (GI Tract)
The tube that goes from the mouth to the anus where food is digested and eliminated from the body (as a bowel movement). Gastrostomy Surgically created opening through the abdominal skin and into the stomach, through which a baby can be fed.
Gavage Feeding
A method of feeding a baby with breast milk or formula before he has learned how to coordinate breathing and swallowing. A small flexible tube is placed into a baby's nostril or mouth and passed down into the stomach.
Gestation
Period of time between last menstrual period and birth. In humans, 40 weeks is the average gestation for a full-term singleton. Commonly called pregnancy.
Gram
A metric unit of weight equal to one thousandth of a kilogram. One gram weighs the same as one small paper clip. There are 30 grams in one ounce.
Group B Streptococcus
Bacterial infection that a baby can contract as he passes through the birth canal, sometimes resulting in further illness Many cases can prevented by screening and/or treating infected women with antibiotics during labor and delivery.

h

Heart Failure
When the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
Hematocrit
The percentage of blood volume consisting of red blood cells. Used as a measure of anemia.
Hemoglobin
The component of red blood cells that carries oxygen. Used as a measure of anemia.
Herpes Simplex
Virus that can be transmitted sexually, sometimes causing genital sores in infected adults. The virus can occupy the mouth, the genitals, or birth canal; on the lips it causes "cold sores." A baby may become infected passing through an infected birth canal, sometimes resulting in severe newborn illness or future medical problems.
Hernia
The protrusion of an organ or structure through muscles that usually contain them. High-Frequency Ventilation Special form of mechanical ventilation, designed to help reduce complications to the infant's delicate lungs. It provides rapid respiratory rates. Often called an Oscillator or Jet Ventilator (respirator).
Hydrocephalus
A condition where too much fluid collects in the ventricles, exerting increased pressure on the brain and causing the baby's head to expand abnormally. Surgery may be required.
Hyperglycemia
High blood glucose levels.
Hypoglycemia
Low blood glucose levels.

i

Ileal Perforation
A hole in part of the small intestine called the ileum.
Incubator or Isolette
A heat controlled crib used to maintain a baby's body temperature in the normal range
Inflammation
Pain, redness, and swelling, ,possibly caused by infection or injury.
Infusion Pump
Device that delivers measured amounts of fluids or medications into the bloodstream over a period of time.
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
Inadequate growth of the fetus so that its is smaller than expected for gestational age. This can happen at any time during pregnancy.
Intravenous (IV)
A small tube inserted into a vein in the hand, foot, arm leg, or scalp. An IV delivers medicine and/or fluids into the blood.
Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)
Condition in which immature and fragile blood vessels within the brain belled into the hallow chambers (ventricles) normally reserved for cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes this bleeding also spreads into the tissue surrounding the ventricles. N IVH is assigned to a grade to give an estimate of how serious it is.
Interval Delivery
In multiple gestation, the delivery of a subsequent baby that is delayed after the preterm delivery of the first.
Intubation
The procedure of inserting a tube through the mouth or nose, down the throat, and into the trachea or windpipe of a patient who may have difficulty breathing or might be at risk of stopping breathing because of illness, surgery, or other medical problem.

j

Jaundice
Yellow discoloration of skin and sometimes, whites of the eyes that results from excess of a body chemical called bilirubin in the body's system. If it is significant, jaundice might require use of special lights (phototherapy) until the baby is more mature. Severe jaundice is treated with exchange transfusion. Also known as hyperbilirubinemia.

k

Kangaroo Care
Holding a baby against one's naked chest, so there is skin-to-skin contact.

l

Lactation Consultant
A health professional (sometimes, but not always, a nurse) who provides information and support about breast-feeding and pumping breast milk.
Lanugo
Fine, downy hair that covers the fetus until shortly before or after birth.
Lead Wires
The wires that go from a monitor to its electrodes (sticky patches on the chest).
Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse
Health care professional with vocational education lasting approximately 12 months and licensed to give nursing care under the direct supervision of a registered nurse of physician. In some states, called a licensed vocational nurse.
Ligation
The act of binding or of applying a tie, wire, or bandage around a limb or blood vessel to restrict blood flow. It is used to treat patent ductus anteriousus (PDA) among other uses.
Liquid Ventilation
A form of respiration in which a machine is used to deliver an oxygen rich liquid, rather than air.
Low Birth Weight
Low birth weight babies are born weighing less than 2,500 g or 5 lbs 8 oz at birth.
Lumbar Puncture
A diagnostic procedure that is done to collect a sample of spinal fluid for analysis, or on rare occasions, to relieve increased pressure in the spinal fluid. It is also known as a spinal tap.

m

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Imaging technique that uses powerful magnets and computers to produce a detailed picture of internal tissues and organs.
Mechanical Ventilation
Using a ventilator to help a very sick baby breathe while her lungs recover.
Meconium
Fecal material made by the fetus; usually passed in the first bowel movement after birth. Sometimes meconium is passed in the amniotic fluid before birth and inhaled in the amniotic fluid during the fetus's normal breathing movement.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS)
Problems caused by meconium going into the lungs while the baby is still in the womb. This can be serious but, usually, the baby eventually recovers fully.
Medicaid
A program partially sponsored by the federal government and administered by states that is intended to provide health care and health-related services to both ow-income individuals and other qualifying persons. A child may qualify regardless of parental income, based on medical circumstances, even if the child has other health insurance.
Meningitis
An inflammation of the brain, usually from viral or bacterial infection.
Microcephaly
A condition in which the circumference of the head is small because of abnormal brain growth. This condition might result in future cerebral palsy or learning problems
Micropreemie
A newborn who weighs less than 800 g or 1 lb 12 oz at birth.
Milestones
Skills most children can perform at certain ages. Examples include, smiling, rolling, sitting, scooting, crawling, standing, walking and talking.
Monitor
A machine that records information such as heartbeat, body temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure.
Moro Reflex
A normal reflex of young babies; a sudden loud noise causes the child to stretch out the arms and flex the legs.
Myopia
The inability to see distant objects as clearly as near objects.

n

Nasal Cannula
the oxygen tubes that give extra oxygen by blowing moisturized oxygen, possibly mixed with air, into the nose.
Nasal Prongs
Small plastic tubes that fit into or under a baby's nose to deliver oxygen.
Nasogastric Tube (NG Tube)
A tube that is passed through the nose and down through the throat and esophagus and into the stomach.
Nebulizer Treatment
A device for giving medicine by making a fine mist that is inhaled through the nose and/or mouth.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
An infection that destroys part of the baby's intestines. Drugs and/or surgery may be required.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
There are 3 levels of NICUs. Level 3 NICUs care for any baby that may have or could have severe or life-threatening conditions. Level 2 NICUs care for any newborns that require monitoring after birth and more than routine newborn care. Level 1 NICUs deliver routine newborn care. Level 1 NICUs are usually reserved for full-term babies, and might not have specialized equipment or physicians specializing in newborn problems.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
An advanced practice nurse with specialized training and expertise in neonatal care, NNPs are licensed to assess, diagnose, manage, and treat critically ill and convalescing neonates. In addition, NNPs prescribe medicine, write orders, interpret results, perform emergency and daily procedures, and attend high-risk deliveries.
Neonatologist
Physician with 10 years of training specialized in dealing with the diseases and care of newborns.
Neurologist
Physician with at least 3 years of post-medical school training specialized in dealing with the diseases and care of the brain and nerves.
NG Tube
see Nasogastric Tube
Nitric Oxide
A gas that naturally produced by the body that can also be given as a medication that is breathed in and helps expand blood vessels. It is sometimes used to treat babies with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn.
Noninvasive
Something that does not enter the body through the skin or an opening (mouth, nose, anus, etc).

o

Occupational Therapist
A health care professional with 4 to 6 years of training who helps people who are ill or disabled learn to manage their daily activities. In the NICU, OTs may be involved in giving the premature baby stimulation, helping the baby learn to coordinate sucking, breathing, and swallowing while helping the baby stay comfortable and relaxed. They also teach the parents about techniques to enhance infant development and other activities.
Ophthalmologist
Physician (MD) specializing in diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and disorders: refractive, medical and surgical problems.
Orogastric Tube
A flexible tube inserted through the mouth, down the throat and esophagus, and into the stomach.
Otoacoustic Emission Test (OEA)
A passive audiological test that verifies cochlear activity; often used in testing babies suspected of hearing loss.
Oximeter (Pulse Oximeter)
A device worn on the finger, toe, or earlobe that painlessly measures levels of oxygen in the blood.
Oxygen Therapy
Giving extra oxygen to the tissues of the body through the lungs in a number of ways, including through a ventilator, mask nasal cannula, or plastic oxygen hood or tent. The amount of oxygen given may be measured as a percentage, and in number of liters, or milliliters, of flow per minute.

p

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
A heart condition caused by the failure of a small blood vessel (the Ductus Arteriosus) to close. Usually this normal opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery closes just after birth. When it does not, the baby may be treated with medicine or surgery to fix the condition, to prevent too much blood from flooding the lungs.
Pediatrician
Physician with at least 3 years of training in the care and treatment of children.
Percutaneous Line/Percutaneous Central Catheter
A long catheter placed into a surface vein, with the catheter tip extending farther into the body into a large central vein. A PICC does not have to be replaced as often as a regular IV line.
Periventricular Leukomolacia
Changes, usually small cysts in brain tissue around the ventricles or fluid spaces of the brain. The cystic change is linked with an increased risk of future problems with learning, vision, or movement
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
In PPHN, it is difficult for blood to get into the lungs and pick up more oxygen that can go to the rest of the body. The cause usually is unknown, and treatments are based on the individual situation. PPHN is also know as Persistent Fetal Circulation (PFC).
Phototherapy
Treatment for jaundice in a newborn. The newborn is placed under (or on top of) special lights to help the body break down the extra bilirubin in the blood.
Physical Therapist (PT)
A health care professional with 4 or more years of training who performs and teaches exercises and other physical activities to aid in rehabilitation and maximize physical muscle and movement development.
Physician
A graduate of a medical school or school of osteopathy with an MD of DO degree.
Pneumothorax
Air that has leaked from the baby's lungs and gets trapped in the space between the baby's lungs and chest wall. While small leaks usually cause no problems and require no treatment, larger leaks may cause serious complications, such as lung collapse, and require withdrawal of the air with a needle and syringe or a surgical procedure to place a tube to drain the trapped air and re inflate the lung.
Pulse Oximeter
A small device that uses a light sensor to help determine blood oxygen levels.

r

Radiant Warmer
A heater that works by sending out radiant energy, usually in the form of heat. It warms objects without needing to touch them. Radiant warmers are often used to maintain temperature of babies in the NICU.
Radiologist
A physician with 7 years of training who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body.
Registered Nurse
Health care professional with 2 to 4 years of training who is licensed to treat patient responses to illness and to carry out medication regimens prescribed by a physician, nurse practitioner, dentist, or physicians' assistant; usually has an associate's or bachelor's degree and may have additional degrees or certificates when working in the NICU.
Resident
A physician with 4 years of training in medical school who is in the process of completing the additional 3 years of training in a primary specialty (for example, pediatrics, radiology, obstetrics/gynecology) following medical school
Respirator
A machine that helps breathing by supplying and regulating a flow of air and oxygen that goes through a tube threaded through the nose or mouth, down the back of the throat, and into the trachea. It is also called a ventilator.
Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)
Condition in which a premature baby with immature lungs does not have sufficient surfactant, a protective film that helps air sacs in the lungs stay open.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus
A virus that causes a mild, cold-like illness in adults. In premature babies or full-term babies with lung problems, it can can cause serious illness, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
Respiratory Therapists
A health care professional with 4 to 6 years of training who assesses the breathing and heart function, treats with oxygen therapy or ventilation, and gives medicines to help with breathing as prescribed by a physician or practitioner.
Retina
Lining at the rear of the eye that relays messages about what the eyes see to the brain.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
A condition in which the blood vessels in the baby's eyes do not develop normally. This can reverse and normalize or progress to serious disease that can lead to hemorrhage scarring, and/or retinal detachment that limit vision. ROP is treated with laser therapy.
Rh Disease
Blood incompatibility between the mother and fetus that can result in destruction of fetal red blood cells.

s

Sepsis
A blood infection
Small for Gestational Age (SGA)
Newborns whose birth weight is less than 10th percentile for their gestational age. If weight gain of the fetus is abnormal, tis is called Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
Social Worker
A professional with 4 to 6 years of training who helps families cope with stress, crisis, and change. In the NICU setting, the social worker helps families access community resources such as support groups and assistance programs. Social workers help with planning the baby's hospital discharge.
Spina Bifida
A birth defect involving the spinal cord, often resulting in varying degrees of paralysis, bladder, and bowel problems. Affected babies may require surgery during the newborn period to close the back and prevent further nerve damage and infections. Surgery cannot reverse nerve damage that already has occurred.
Step-down Unit
Nursing unit with patients who are not in need of intensive care but still require skilled nursing care.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
A federal income program funded by general tax revenues. Parents of children who qualify, based on medical and financial criteria, receive monthly payments to assist with health care expenses.
Surfactant/Pulmonary Surfactant
A protective substance that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.
Syndrome
A combination of signs and symptoms that, when present together, are associated with a specific medical condition.
Swaddling
Wrapping babies snugly in cloths or blankets so that movement of the limbs is restricted providing the baby with a secure womb-like feeling.

t

Tachycardia
Rapid heart rate.
Tachypnea
Rapid breathing.
Tonic Neck Reflex
One of the reflexes present at birth, also called the fencing reflex. A newborn will bend one arm while the other is extended away from the body, in the direction the baby is facing.
Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)
A technique in which nutrients are given to a person through an intravenous infusion. TPN often requires a PICC or CVL.
Toxoplasmosis
A parasitic infection that, when contracted by a pregnant woman, can result in serious newborn illness and chronic disabilities, such as intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, seizures, or vision and hearing loss.
Transfusion
The transfer of whole blood or blood products from on individual to another.
Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)
A disease of the placenta (or afterbirth) that affects identical twin pregnancies. The shared placenta contains abnormal blood vessels that con convey blood from one twin to another, resulting in higher red blood cell count and, sometimes, better growth, in one twin than another.

u

Ultrasound (Sonogram)
The use of ultrasonic waves for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. In the NICU, ultrasound is used to obtain an image of an internal body structure
Umbilical Arterial Catheter (UAC)
A line placed directly into the umbilical artery through the baby's umbilical cord.
Umbilical Venous Catheter (UAC)
A line placed directly into the umbilical vein (a much larger vein than a peripheral vein) through the baby's umbilical cord.

v

Vein
A blood vessel leading toward the heart.
Ventilator
Mechanical breathing machine.
Ventricle
A small chamber, one of the central chambers in the brain, or one of the 2 lower chambers of the heart.
Very Low Birth Weight
Babies that weigh less than 1500 g or 3 lbs 5 oz at birth.
Very Premature Babies
born between 23 and 27 weeks' gestation.
Viable
Viable means a newborn is potentially able to survive.
Vital Signs
Temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.

w

Woman, Infants, and Children
WIC is a nutritional program that helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children eat well and stay healthy. It provides food or formula to parents of babies.

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