Tests and Procedures
Many of the tests, procedures, and monitoring that occur in the NICU can be very intimidating. But every piece of equipment and every procedure performed is there to help your newborn get better. These tests and procedures are performed with equipment made especially for newborns, and every effort is made to ease any anxiety and discomfort your baby may experience. Please ask your baby's doctor or nurse if you have any questions or concerns regarding any test or procedure. You may observe the following:
- Temperature control. Many newborns need help in maintaining their body temperature. Your baby may be put in an open bed with a radiant warmer or in an incubator/isolette. A small probe on your baby's skin monitors and regulates temperature in both cases.
- IVs. IVs (or intravenous lines) administer fluids and/or medications to your baby, and are sometimes used for monitoring their condition. Babies most commonly have an IV placed in a hand, foot, or scalp (your baby's nurse or technician will make this as painless as possible). At times a specialized larger IV may be inserted in order to provide larger quantities of fluids or medications.
- Arterial line. Similar to an IV, an arterial line is inserted into an artery in order to monitor blood pressure and blood oxygen levels.
- Monitors. Your baby will be connected to a variety of monitors—equipment that measures various vital signs, such as heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure. They are usually connected to the heart rate monitor through several painless "leads"—small patches that stick to the skin with a wire coming from it to the monitor—attached to the chest, abdomen and leg. Your baby may also be connected to a machine that monitors blood oxygen levels. This monitor is attached to your baby like a small bandage on the fingers or toes or in very tiny babies, a foot or hand. Blood pressure is measured using a small cuff placed around the baby's upper arm or leg.
- Tests. Your baby's attending physician may order a number of different tests or procedures to diagnose, to monitor and to treat an illness or injury. Tests are usually laboratory tests or imaging tests, and may include:
Our advanced technology allows us to be as efficient as possible in treating our patients. Computers in the NICU are linked to computers in the laboratories and radiology. This system enables the results: blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, and other imagery to be available to NICU doctors and staff quickly.
- Vaccines/Immunizations. Since it is important that premature babies get their shots on schedule, it's possible that your baby will receive his/her first sets of shots while still in the NICU. Answers to questions many parents ask about vaccines for premature infants
- Rescue therapies for acute breathing difficulties.
- Ventilators. Newborns who need help breathing may be attached to a ventilator. This machine is connected to the baby usually through an endotracheal tube (a tube that is placed into the windpipe through the mouth or nose). Depending on your baby's condition, he or she may be put on a conventional, mechanical ventilator or a specialized ventilator (such as high frequency oscillator or high frequency positive pressure ventilation).
- Other therapies include:
- Administration of surfactant
- Inhaled nitric oxide
- Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
- Phototherapy Lights. These lights are used to prevent jaundice by breaking down the bilirubin in your baby's blood. When they are used, your baby's eyes will be covered with protective patches.
- Catheter of the bladder. Some baby's may be too ill to pass urine on their own or all excreted fluids may need to be measured. In those cases, a Foley catheter is inserted into the bladder to drain urine from the body.
- Feeding tube. Newborns may need a tube inserted from the nose or mouth into the stomach to provide nutrition.
- Umbilical catheter. This is a small plastic tube inserted into one of the two arteries or the vein in the baby's umbilicus. Medications, fluids, and blood can be given and blood and fluid can be taken without extra needle pricks using an umbilical catheter.