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  NICU Glossary
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ANAEMIA   A deficiency of red blood cells, which reduces the bloods capacity to carry oxygen to body tissues. Usually caused by a lack of iron.
APGAR SCORE   A system of assessing the physical condition of a newborn at 1, 5 and sometimes 10 minutes after birth by assigning a value of 0, 1 or 2 to each of five criteria: heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, response to stimuli, and skin color. When added together the scores range from 0 to 10.
APNOEA   A temporary suspension of breathing. Apnoea of Prematurity occurs in infants who are born before 34 weeks of pregnancy and are unable to regulate their breathing normally due to their immature or underdeveloped brain or respiratory system. It is accompanied by a change in facial colour and drop in heart rate.
ASPIRATION   Inhalation of a foreign substance, such as formula, meconium or stomach juice into the trachea (windpipe) and lungs. Also refers to the removal of material from the body via suctioning.
ASPHYXIA   A condition whereby the intake of oxygen to the body and the expulsion of carbon dioxide from the body is restricted, resulting in loss of consciousness or death.
BAGGING   The process of placing a mask connected to a self-inflating bag over a baby's nose and mouth and squeezing it to facilitate breathing.
BILIRUBIN   A dark yellow-green or orange-red pigment produced when the liver processes waste products. Bilirubin produced in excess causes yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes.
BLOOD GASES   A test that measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a person’s blood.
BRADYCARDIA   A reduced heart rate, which in premature babies is usually to less than 100 beats per minute.
BRAIN SCAN   The creation of a picture of the brain using ultrasound, X rays (called a CT or CAT Scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (called an MRI) in order to gain information about it.
BREAST PUMP   A manually or electronically operated suction device used to extract milk from the breast.
BRONCHO PULMONARY DYSPLASIA (BPD)   A chronic lung disease resulting from damage to lung tissue, which causes the lungs to trap air or collapse, fill with fluid and to trap air or collapse, fill with fluid and generate extra mucus thus making breathing difficult and contributing to other health problems. It most commonly occurs amongst children who were born prematurely, with low birth weights, and who were mechanically ventilated for a long period of time.
CANDIDA   A yeast infection of skin and mucus membranes that occurs when there is an imbalance of flora in the digestive or genital tracts. Premature babies are more susceptible to candida infections due to the immaturity of their immune systems and the large number of medical procedures to which they need to be subjected.
CENTILE CHARTS   A representation of the ranges of measurements occurring at different ages.
CEREBROSPINAL FLUID (CSF)   A clear, colourless fluid that flows in the cavities within the brain and surfaces of the brain and spinal cord. It delivers nutrients to, and removes waste from, the central nervous system and protects the brain and spinal cord from trauma.
CHEST DRAIN   A flexible plastic tube that is inserted through the side of the chest to remove an abnormal collection of air, fluid, or pus from the pleural space.
CHRONOLOGICAL AGE   A baby's age calculated from their actual birth date.
CORRECTED AGE   A baby’s age calculated from their expected due date. Generally used to compare the growth and developmental milestones of premature babies to term babies.
CONTINUOUS POSITIVE AIRWAY PRESSURE (CPAP)   A respiratory support machine that delivers a continuous flow of air or oxygen into a baby’s lungs, via small nasal tubes, to help keep the air sacs open between breaths.
CYANOSIS    A bluish discoloration of the skin, nail beds and mucous membranes caused by insufficient oxygenation of the blood.
DESATURATION    A decrease in the oxygen saturation level of blood to below 85%. In most infants, oxygen is adjusted to keep this level between 92 - 96%.
DISTENDED ABDOMEN   An abdominal, or stomach, area that has a full, tight appearance, as if swollen due to internal pressure.
ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG)   A test that measures and graphically records electrical activity of the heart.
ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM (EEG)   A test that measures and graphically records electrical activity of the brain.
ENDOTRACHEAL TUBE   A tube inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to maintain an open airway.
EXCHANGE TRANSFUSION     The replacement of most of a patient's blood with an equal amount from a donor.
EXPRESSED BREAST MILK (EBM)   Milk produced by manipulating the lactating breast, either by hand or with a breast pump.
EXTUBATE   The process of removing a tube placed in a hollow organ or passageway, such as the windpipe, to keep it open.
GESTATIONAL AGE   The age of an embryo, foetus or newborn as calculated from the first day of a womans last menstrual period.
GRUNTING   The whining, moaning sound created by a baby that is having difficulty breathing.
HAEMOGLOBIN   The component of red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. Used as a measure of anaemia.
HEAD BOX   A Perspex box that is placed over a baby's head to allow for the delivery of air/oxygen in a non-obtrusive manner.
HEAD CIRCUMFERENCE (H.C.)   The distance measured around the largest part of a baby's head.
HEAT SHIELD   A clear plastic shell placed over a baby to provide additional protection against heat loss.
HEEL PRICK TEST   A procedure in which a small pinprick puncture is made in a baby’s heel to obtain a blood sample.
HERNIA   The protrusion of an organ or structure into an opening or weak spot in a muscle wall in which it is usually contained. Umbilical and Inguinal hernias are the most common type of hernia in children and occur more often in premature infants.
HIGH FREQUENCY OSCILLATION VENTILATION (HFO)   The delivery of small tidal volumes of oxygen to an infant at fast frequencies as a means to reducing injury to the lungs.
HYPOXIA   A condition in which there is an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in bodily tissues.
INTRACRANIAL HAEMORRHAGE   A bleed that occurs when a blood vessel within the head ruptures or leaks.
INTRAUTERINE GROWTH RESTRICTION (IUGR)   A condition in which the foetus is smaller than expected for its gestational age due to inadequate growth. An IUGR foetus is defined as one who’s estimated weight is below the 10th percentile for its gestational age and whose abdominal circumference is below the 2.5th percentile. Often used interchangeably with the term Small for Gestational Age (SGA), however whilst most IUGR infants will be SGA, not all SGA infants will have had IUGR. IUGR is also sometimes referred to as Intrauterine Growth Retardation.
INTRAVENOUS (I.V) NUTRITION   A way of supplying vital nutrients directly to a patients bloodstream using a peripheral drip or central line. Supplying nutrients in this manner allows the digestive system, where nutrients may be rendered inactive or not absorbed, to be by-passed and means deficiencies can be immediately addressed.
INTRAVENTRICULAR HEMORRHAGE (IVH)   A condition in which there is bleeding from the blood vessels into the ventricles (hollow fluid filled chambers where cerebrospinal fluid is stored) of the brain. An IVH is assigned a grade to indicates its severity. Babies who are born before 32 weeks of pregnancy are most susceptible to this type of bleeding, which will usually occur in the first week of life.
INTUBATION   The process of inserting a tube into a hollow organ or passageway, such as the windpipe, to keep it open.
ISOLETTE   A heated and, on occasion, humidified plastic box that provides a warm, protected environment for premature babies who often have difficulty maintaining their temperature owing to their small size and body mass. Also called an Incubator or historically an Humidicrib.
JAUNDICE   A yellow discolouration of the skin, whites of the eyes, nail beds and/or mucous membranes caused by the presence of elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood.
KANGAROO CARE   Holding a baby against ones naked chest so that there is skin-to-skin contact between the baby and parent or caregiver.
LOW BIRTH WEIGHT   A baby weighing less than 2.5 kg.
LUMBAR PUNCTURE   A test involving the withdrawal of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from within the spinal canal so that it can be analysed for infection. Also sometimes referred to as a Spinal Tap.
MECONIUM   The viscous, sticky and odorless dark green bowel movement of a newborn baby that contains the materials digested during their time in the uterus and usually starts being passed within 24 hours of their birth.
MECONIUM ASPIRATION   The inhalation of meconium by a baby who becomes distressed prior to delivery. Such inhalation can irritate and may partially block the airways, making breathing difficult for the baby after birth.
NASAL CANULA     Tubing that is used to direct oxygen into a baby’s nose.
NASO GASTRIC FEEDS (NG Feeds)   A way of feeding a baby that involves passing a fine, soft tube through the nose into the stomach.
NECROTISING ENTEROCOLITIS (NEC)   A condition that occurs when a section of the intestine is swollen or inflamed because the lining has been damaged, often as a result of obstructed blood or oxygen flow in the perinatal period. With the introduction of feeding, bacteria then invade the bowel wall causing tissue damage and, in some cases, perforation. Signs that this may have occurred include swelling of the abdomen and the presence of blood in the baby’s stools.
NEONATE   A baby during its first four weeks of life.
NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT (NICU)   A hospital unit that specialises in the care of premature or ill newborn babies. There are three levels of NICU’s. Level 1 is for routine newborn care, Level 2 is for babies that require monitoring after birth and Level 3 is for any infant that may have severe or life-threatening conditions that require specialised care.
OEDEMA   Swelling caused by the build up of fluid in the tissues under the skin.
PATENT DUCTUS ARTERIOSUS (PDA)   A condition whereby an opening in the blood vessel connecting the two main arteries leaving the heart remains open for more than a few days after birth.
PERIODIC BREATHING   A pause in breathing which lasts up to ten seconds and is followed by several rapid and shallow breaths, but unlike Apnoea of Prematurity is not accompanied by blueness of the face and a drop in heart rate.
PERSISTENT FOETAL CIRCULATION   The persistence of blood vessel constriction of the lungs, normally present during the foetal period, after birth. This results in reduced blood flow and a lack of oxygen to the organs of the body. Also known as Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN).
pH   The acidity (low value) or alkalinity (raised value) of a solution on a scale of 0 to 14. The normal value for arterial blood is close to 7.4.
PHOTOTHERAPY   The placement of lights around a jaundice-affected infant to assist in the breakdown of bilirubin in the blood.
PERIPHERALLY INSERTED CENTRAL CATHETER (PICC) LINE   A long I.V. line made of soft flexible material that is inserted into a peripheral vein and then threaded into a larger vein leading to the heart. It is used to provide medication or intravenous nutrition directly into a vein or to draw blood from a vein and is generally more stable and will last longer than a typical I.V. line.
PNEUMOTHORAX   An accumulation of air or gas between the lung and chest wall.
POSITIVE END EXPIRATORY PRESSURE (PEEP)   A method of ventilation in which airway pressure is maintained above atmospheric pressure when a baby breathes out to ensure its lungs do not collapse.
PREMATURE (OR PRETERM) BABY   A baby born before reaching 37 weeks gestation.
PULSE OXIMETER   A device generally worn on the finger or toe that painlessly measures the level of oxygen in a baby’s blood.
RADIANT WARMER   A device that uses radiant energy to heat infants without the need to touch them.
RESPIRATORY DISTRESS SYNDROME (RDS)    A respiratory disease, caused by immature lung development, in which the lungs have difficulty holding in air. Also known as Hyaline Membrane Disease.
RETINOPATHY OF PREMATURITY (ROP)   Abnormal development of the blood vessels in the retina of a premature baby’s eye.
ROUNDS   The movement of a gathering of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals between patients to discuss each individuals condition and care.
SEPSIS   A bloodstream infection caused by toxin-producing bacteria.
SMALL FOR GESTATIONAL AGE (SGA)     A baby that is born weighing less than 90% of babies of the same gestational age. See also ‘IUGR’.
STOOL   Solid wastes passed from the rectum during a bowel movement.
SUCTION   Removal of nose, throat or endotracheal tube secretions with the use of a small plastic tube connected to a vacuum outlet.
SURFACTANT   A fluid that is secreted by the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) and reduces the force needed to inflate the lungs. Many extremely premature babies lack this pulmonary surfactant and unless artificial surfactant is introduced into their trachea and lungs after birth, they are at risk of developing RDS.
TRANSFUSION   The delivery of donated blood or blood products into a baby’s vein or artery.
TACHYCARDIA   Rapid beating of the heart, which in premature babies usually means > 160 beats/minute.
TACHYPNOEA   Rapid breathing rate, which in premature babies usually means > 70 breaths/minute.
TOTAL PARENTERAL NUTRITION (TPN)   Supplying all fluids and essential nutrients intravenously and allowing the digestive tract to be bypassed.
UMBILICAL CATHETER   A very small plastic tube that is inserted into one of the arteries of a baby’s umbilical cord and is used to take blood samples, supply fluids, measure blood pressure and/or monitor oxygen levels.
VENTILATION   Support of breathing by mechanical means to ensure normal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide are maintained in the blood.
VITAL SIGNS   Physical signs that indicate life, including temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
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