The world of neonatal intensive care has a language all of its own.  Here are some of the common medical terms and abbreviations.  If your baby's nurse or doctor uses a term that you don't understand, please ask.

  • ApnoeaShort period of time when a baby stops breathing. The baby may turn blue, become bradycardic and require gentle stimulation to remind them to breathe.
  • Apnoea AlarmA device attached to your baby's chest/tummy which picks up each breath and alarms if no breaths are detected after a few seconds.
  • Blood GasBlood taken regularly from an Arterial Catheter or via a heel prick to measure the oxygen and carbon dioxide content of the blood.
  • Blood GlucoseThe level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
  • Bradycardia (Brady)When baby's heart rate drops below 100 beats per minute - these are very common in premature babies and often correct themselves without additional help.
  • CannulaA small plastic tube that is inserted into a blood vessel using a needle.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)The gas produced by metabolism that has to be removed by the lungs.
  • Cardiac MonitorUsed to measure the baby's heart rate.
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)Resuscitation to re-establish breathing and the heart rate.
  • Chronic Lung DiseaseDifficulty with breathing and dependence on oxygen following a period of ventilation, common in very premature infants.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)A type of ventilation support that delivers oxygen or air under pressure to baby through their nose.
  • EndocarditisInflammation of the lining of the heart or heart valves.
  • EndotrachealWithin the tracheal or windpipe.
  • Endotracheal Tube (ETT)A tube placed through either the baby's mouth or nose into the trachea (windpipe).
  • Extremely Low Birth WeightBabies born weighing less than 1000g (2lbs).
  • Extremely PrematureBabies born between 24 and 28 weeks in the womb.
  • ExtubationRemoval of the endotracheal or breathing tube.
  • Eyelid SpeculumDevice to hold the eyelids to allow a doctor to have a good look.
  • Haemolytic DiseaseDisease causing breakdown of red blood cells.
  • HaemorrhageBleeding.
  • Head BoxA perspex hood placed over the baby's head as a method of giving them oxygen.
  • Head ScansUltrasound examination carried out regularly to make sure there are no problems like bleeding that the doctor needs to know about.
  • HepatitisInflammation of the liver.
  • High Frequency Ventilation (HFV)A type of ventilation that gently vibrates the baby's chest and delivers hundreds of tiny breaths per minute. This may be a better way of ventilating a few babies.
  • Hyaline Membrane Disease (HMD)Another name for Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The lung condition that many premature babies get.
  • HydrocephalusWater on the brain.
  • HydropsA baby that is swollen with fluid.
  • Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation (IMV)A form of ventilation where a set number of breaths is given per minute by the ventilator.
  • Intracranial HaemorrhageBleeding into the fluid-filled spaces of the brain or into the substance of the brain itself.
  • Intraventricular Haemorrhage (IVH)Bleeding into the ventricles of the brain.
  • IschaemiaLocal decrease in blood supply due to obstruction of arterial blood flow or to vasoconstriction (spasm of the artery).
  • IUGR/Growth RetardationBabies born too small for their gestational age.
  • Long LineA tiny catheter threaded into a deep vein to give long term fluids or intravenous nutrition.
  • Lumbar Puncture (LP)A procedure where a sample of spinal fluid is obtained.
  • Nasal ProngA small tube inserted into the baby's nostrils to deliver oxygen.
  • Naso Gastric Tube (GGT)A feeding tube which goes from the baby's nose to the stomach.
  • NBMNothing by mouth.
  • Necrotising EnterocolitisA serious intestinal disorder of the gut causing bleeding into the gut, infection and occasionally perforation of the gut and peritonitis. Doctors often shorten this to NEC.
  • 02Oxygen.
  • Oro Gastric Tube (OGT)A feeding tube going from the baby's mouth to stomach.
  • Patent Ductus Arterious (PDA)Persistence of a blood vessel which connects the 2 big arteries leaving the heart and which normally closes shortly after birth.
  • Periventricular Leucomalacia (PVL)An area of the brain which has become soft and sometimes cystic.
  • PhototherapyA special light that is used to treat babies who have jaundice.
  • PneumoniaInfection of the lung, or part of the lung.
  • PrematureBabies born before 37 weeks in the womb.
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)Breathing difficulties mostly seen in premature babies that may require mechanical assistance or extra oxygen.
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)Disorder of blood vessel formation in the back of eye of preterm babies.
  • Saturation (Sa02)Measurement of the level of oxygen in the blood.
  • Serum Bilirubin LevelThe level of jaundice in the blood.
  • SuctioningThe process where secretions are removed from a baby's mouth or nose in ETT.
  • Synchronised Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation (SIMV)A type of ventilation where the ventilator breaths are timed to the baby's.
  • TermA baby that has spent between 37 and 41 weeks in the womb.
  • Thrombus/ThrombosisBlood clot.
  • Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)Nutrition given through a cannula into a vein.
  • TPRTemperature, pulse and respiration.
  • TTNTransient Tachypnoea of the newborn - a condition causing breathlessness usually in term babies that gets better quite quickly.
  • UACUmbilical artery catheter.
  • Umbilical CatheterTube(s) inserted into the baby's umbilicus (belly button) which is used to give intravenous feeds and take blood samples and record blood pressure.
  • UVCUmbilical venous catheter.
  • VentilationUsing a machine for breathing.
  • VentilatorThis is a life support machine that maintains a baby's breathing.
  • Very Low Birth WeightBabies born weighing less than 1500g (3lbs).
  • X-raysA picture is taken to check baby. The most common is a chest x-ray used to check your baby's lungs.