Premature Infant - Getting to Know the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
If your premature infant (preemie) is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth, you will find out about new technologies, new medical words, and new rules and procedures.
You will depend on the NICU staff members, including neonatologists and nurses, to know how to care for your infant and to be your teachers. With their help, you can quickly learn about your infant's needs and what you can do for your infant. Throughout your infant's stay in the NICU, you will want to keep open communication with the staff.
First you'll learn to scrub up before visiting your infant's bedside. When you're there, you may be surprised by the number of machines and instruments surrounding your child. Remember that because of these machines your premature infant has a much greater chance of doing well than ever before.
At a minimum, your infant will be warmed and watched over with equipment that includes:
If your infant has additional medical needs, other tests and equipment also may be used, including:
- A transcutaneous oxygen and/or carbon dioxide monitor, to constantly measure these levels in the blood without using a needle.
- An intravenous (IV) site, for giving medicine, fluids, and feedings.
- An umbilical catheter, for giving medicine, fluids, and feedings, and for drawing blood.
- A ventilator, for help with breathing.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), for help with breathing. (This is usually for mild to moderate apnea of prematurity and mild lung problems or for weaning from a ventilator.
- A cranial ultrasound, to check for brain bleeding or damage, usually between days 3 and 7 after birth.
- A chest X-ray, to check for lung damage. It may also be used to check the positioning of an endotracheal tube if one is used to assist with breathing.
- An abdominal X-ray. This is to check the intestines for necrotizing enterocolitis and to check the position of the umbilical catheter.
- An echocardiogram, to check the heart for congenital heart defects or patent ductus arteriosus.
- Phototherapy, to help treat jaundice.