Arkansas Children's Hospital Careers About Arkansas Children's Hospital Contact Us News
Patients & Families Healthcare Professionals Supporters

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Glossary/Common Terms

  • Anemia
  • Apnea
  • Asphyxia: When the body does not receive enough oxygen
  • Bassinet: Open crib that does not provide heat source
  • Birth defect
  • Bolus: Feeding volume given in one setting similar to a meal, instead of over a period of time or continuously.
  • Bradycardia (Brady): A temporary slowing of the heart rate. Gentle touching of the baby is usually enough to raise the heart rate.
  • Central line (CVL)
  • Cerebral palsy (CP): A result of damage to the brain that can cause abnormal movements and other developmental delays.
  • Chronic lung disease (CLD)
  • Cleft lip and palate: An abnormal opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth that can cause feeding, dental, and speech problems. Most require eventual surgical repair.
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
  • Desaturation (Desat): When there is too little oxygen reaching the tissues of the body. This may cause the skin to appear blue or grey. A machine called a pulse oximeter (pulse ox) measures the oxygen level.
  • Diaphragmatic Hernia: A hole in the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen (diaphragm). This hole (hernia) allows the bowel to push up into the chest cavity. This can keep the lungs from growing and functioning properly. It can interfere with the baby's breathing, circulation and oxygenation.
  • Duodenal Atresia: A blockage of the upper portion of the small bowel that can cause abdominal swelling and vomiting. Most require surgical repair.
  • Endotracheal tube (Breathing tube)
  • Gastroschisis: A defect in the abdomen which the can affect the bowel, stomach, and liver causing them to form on the outside of the body.
  • Hydrocephalus: Abnormal growth of the head related to a blockage in the brain or spinal cord that causes cerebral spinal fluid to build-up in the head. It usually requires placement of a shunt to allow built-up fluid to drain.
  • Infection or Sepsis
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH)
  • Isolation: Use of gown, gloves, or mask to help prevent the spread of infection. Personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required to prevent the spread of infection when entering a patient room or treating a patient.
  • Isolette or Incubator
  • Jaundice
  • Kangaroo care (Skin to Skin)
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome: When the baby breathes in the dark green substance produced in the bowels while still inside mom. This can irritate lung tissues and block airways in the lungs making it very difficult for the baby to breathe.
  • Monitor
  • Multipurpose room: Rooms used for parents to spend the night and learn to care for the infant when they are close to going home. May be used for other purposes as determined by individual patient/family needs.
  • Myelomeningocele: When the spinal column does not form properly. A gap in the bony parts of the spine may allow spinal tissue to push out through the skin. The baby may have some loss of feeling or movement in the legs. Babies may also have loss of bowel and bladder control depending on the severity of the defect.
  • Nasal cannula
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
  • “Nothing by mouth” (NPO): Baby cannot take any liquid or food into its mouth. Premature and/or sick babies may have trouble digesting their milk and may be placed NPO to give their system time to rest or heal.
  • Omphalocele: When some of the contents of the abdomen push out the umbilical cord. A sac usually covers the abdominal contents.
  • Orogastric tube (OGT)/ Nasogastric tube (NGT): A tube placed in the mouth or nose that goes into the stomach. Used for feeding or removing air or contents from the stomach.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
  • Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)
  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN)
  • Peripheral intravenous line (PIV)
  • Premature newborn: A baby who is born before 38 weeks of pregnancy are completed.
  • Pulse oximeter (pulse ox): Monitoring the amount of oxygen reaching the body's tissues through the baby's skin.
  • Residuals: The amount of milk found in the stomach before it is time to give the next feeding. Nurses will check for residuals through a feeding tube before starting a new feeding.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
  • Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
  • Room Air: The air we breathe contains 21% oxygen among other components.
  • Rooming In: When families spend the night and focus on learning to care for their baby independently
  • Seizures: When the electrical signals in the brain do not work properly.
  • Therapy – Occupational (OT), Speech (ST), Physical (PT): Therapies prescribed for babies based on their individual needs
  • Total parenteral nutrition (TPN): Intravenous fluids that provide nutrition when the infant is not able to tolerate all their feedings through the stomach. It includes fluid, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF): An abnormal passage or connection between the windpipe (trachea) and the food pipe (esophagus). This connection can make feeding difficult. Most require surgical repair.
  • Transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN): When there is a delay in the absorption of lung fluid after birth. The baby may breathe fast until the fluid clears from the lungs.
  • Transpyloric tube (TPT): A tube placed in the mouth or nose that goes past the stomach. Used for feeding babies that cannot tolerate food in the stomach.
  • Umbilical line (UAC/UVC)
  • Ventilator (vent)
  • Warmer
General Information


New Parent Planner - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) child care guide.

Health Info
Donate Now