MultiCare Health System

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Anemia: A condition where there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the tissues of the body.  It is very common in NICU babies, especially preemies. Severe anemia is treated with a blood transfusion.

Antibiotics: Drugs that kill bacteria or reduce their growth. They are used to treat infections.

Apnea: Pauses in breathing of 20 seconds or longer, or pauses of any length accompanied by cyanosis and bradycardia caused by prematurity or illness.

Aspirate: Undigested breast milk or formula remaining in the stomach.

Axillary temperature: A body temperature taken by placing a thermometer between the skin of the chest and the inner upper arm.

Bagging: Gently pumping oxygen into the lungs using an oxygen bag and a facemask or endotracheal (ET) tube.

Bilirubin (bili): A substance produced when the body breaks down red blood cells.

Bilirubin lights (bili lights, phototherapy): Lights over the baby’s bed that give phototherapy to treat high bilirubin levels in the baby’s blood.

Blood gas: A test done on a small amount of blood to determine how much oxygen, carbon dioxide and acid are in the baby’s blood. This test indicates how well a baby is breathing.

Bradycardia (brady): A slowing of the heart rate below the baby’s normal rate.   Generally, bradycardia of the newborn or preemie is defined as a rate of less than 100 beats per minute.

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

Cardio-respiratory monitor:  An electronic device attached to the baby to monitor the heart rate and the rate of breathing, and which sounds an alarm if either falls below or exceeds a set level.

Colostrum: The breast milk that comes in during the first few days after birth. It has a higher concentration of substances that protect babies from infections.

Complete blood count (CBC): A laboratory test that measures the cellular components in the blood including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This test is often used to detect infection.

Cup feeding: A feeding method used for a breast-feeding baby whose mother is not present in order to avoid the use of a bottle and nipple. A small plastic cup is used to allow the baby to lap up the milk with their tongue.

Cyanosis: A condition in which the skin and mucous membranes have a bluish color, caused by lack of oxygen in the blood.

Edema: An accumulation of excess fluid in body tissues, generally causing swelling.

Endotracheal (ET) tube: A soft plastic tube inserted through the mouth and into the airway (trachea) to help a baby breathe that needs the assistance of a ventilator.

Extubate: To remove an endotracheal (ET) tube.

Feeding tube: A soft plastic tube inserted through the baby’s mouth (OG) or nose (NG) and on into the stomach to provide a route for breast milk or formula feedings.

Fontanel: The soft spot on the top of a baby’s head.

Gavage feeding: Feeding a baby through a tube inserted through the mouth or nose and on into the stomach. Also called tube feedings.

Glucose: A simple sugar used by the body for energy. Glucose levels are checked using a drop of blood on a strip that is inserted into a machine.

HA (PN): The yellow IV solution containing essential nutrients (proteins, glucose, vitamins, and minerals) and water through an intravenous line.  

Heel stick: A method of obtaining blood for laboratory tests. It involves pricking the baby’s heel to gather the sample of blood.

Hematocrit (Hct): The percentage of red blood cells in the blood.

Human milk fortifier (HMF): A nutrient supplement added to the breast milk to meet the special needs of preemies. HMF provides protein, fats, calories, vitamins, and minerals.

Intubation: Insertion of an endotracheal (ET) tube through the mouth and into the airway (trachea) to help a baby breathe with the assistance of a ventilator.

Isolette (incubator): A transparent, boxlike enclosure in which sick or preterm babies are placed. It allows control of the temperature around the baby.

Jaundice: A yellow skin color caused by an increased amount of bilirubin in the blood. It is treated with special lights called phototherapy that help the baby’s body break down the bilirubin.

Kangaroo care: The practice of holding a preterm baby skin-to-skin to provide close human contact between parent and baby.

K pad: A thin, heated, water-filled mattress placed below your baby to assist temperature regulation.  

Lanugo: The soft, downy hair covering a preterm infant.

Lipids: The thick white IV solution containing essential fats needed by babies until feedings are successfully established.

Meconium: Dark green to blackish material present in the large intestine of the fetus before birth. This sticky stool is usually passed during the first few days of life.  

Nasal cannula: Small prongs inserted into the nose that provide extra oxygen.

NPO: Nothing by mouth, meaning the baby should be given neither food nor fluids orally.

Platelets: A component of the blood involving clotting.

Premature (preterm): A baby born before 37 weeks of gestation.

Prone: Lying on the stomach.

Pulse oximeter (oxygen saturation monitor): A device that wraps around the hand or foot of a baby and uses a light sensor to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood. It provides a general indicator of a baby’s oxygenation.

Residual:  Food remaining in the stomach from the previous feeding at the time of the next feeding. Large residuals may indicate feeding intolerance.

Respirations: Breaths.

Retraction: Pulling in of the ribs and center of the chest with each breath.

Rooming-in: Staying overnight at the hospital with your baby shortly before discharge; a trial run when parents care for their baby independently and use nursing staff only if necessary.

Sepsis: The presence of harmful microorganisms in the blood and their effects on the body; a general infection.

Sepsis workup: A series of tests looking for bacteria in the blood, urine, spinal fluid and lungs.
Surfactant: A slippery substance in the lungs which spreads like a film over the air sacs (alveoli) to keep them open so that air can move in and out.

Temperature probe: A coated wire attached to the baby’s skin to measure the temperature.

Transfusion: The giving of fluid, such as whole blood or a blood component (such as red blood cells) directly into the bloodstream through an IV catheter.

Trophic feedings: The initial small feedings given to prepare the baby’s gut for nutritive feedings.

Ventilator (respirator): A mechanical device that assists breathing and supplies an air/oxygen mixture under pressure.  It is used with an endotracheal (ET) tube.

Warmer (radiant warmer): An open mattress, usually on a mobile cart with a heat source above it.  Used to stabilize and warm a baby immediately after birth, for easy access to the baby during care giving, and in other situations (such as surgery or procedures).