Services at Cardon Children's Medical Center  

Glossary of NICU terms

  • ABO Incompatibility:  A difference in blood type between mother and infant that can increase the likelihood of severe newborn anemia and jaundice.   
  • Adjusted age (or corrected age):  The number of weeks or months since your baby’s due date.  Your baby missed out on some growth time inside the womb and the adjusted age takes that into account.  For example:  If your baby was born one month premature on January 1, on March 1 your baby’s adjusted age is one month even though he was born two months ago.  This is often used until the child is 2years old for developmental expectations and at doctor’s appointments. 
  • Anemia:  A condition in which certain levels in the blood are lower than normal and may result in the need for medical intervention.   
  • Antibiotics:  Medications given to treat a possible or definite infection.   
  • Apgar score:  A score ranging from 0 to 10 indicating a baby’s physical condition immediately after birth.   
  • Apnea:  A pause in breathing lasting 20 seconds or longer that may require medical intervention.   
  • Apnea Monitor:  An instrument that may be used at home that monitors continuously for events of apnea or bradycardia.  If an event occurs, it is recorded in the monitor’s memory and an alarm sounds.   
  • Bililights:  Therapy lights (may be white or blue) used to treat jaundice (also called phototherapy).  
  • Bilirubin:  A yellow substance that is released during the breakdown of red blood cells.  An excess can cause a yellowing of the skin and/or eyes called jaundice.   
  • Blood Culture:  A blood sample to determine if bacteria is present in the blood.  
  • Blood Gas:  A blood sample, taken from an artery or heel stick, which helps to evaluate an infant’s respiratory status 
  • Blood Transfusion:  The administration of blood supplied by the blood bank, given through an intravenous line.  Other blood products such as platelets and plasma can be transfused as well. 
  • Bradycardia (Brady):  A slower than normal heart rate (below 80 beats per minute in infants).  This may require medical intervention. 
  • Cardiac and Respiratory Monitor leads:  Sensors on the newborn’s chest, arms or legs that transmit cardiac and respiratory information directly to the vital signs monitor.   
  • Central Line:  A type of intravenous tube threaded through a vein to a position as close to the heart as possible to give fluids and medications.  The medical team may suggest placing a central line if your baby might need an IV for a long time because it can often stay in for several weeks or months.   
  • CAT scan (CT scan):  A scanner that uses X-rays to generate cross-sectional pictures of the head or body. 
  • Colostrum:  The thick, yellowish breast milk produced in the first few days after delivery.  This milk is especially rich in nutrients and antibodies.   
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A respiratory support method in which low pressure is used to keep the air sacs in the lungs open and make it easier for a baby to breathe. The baby does all the breathing on his own.  This pressure is delivered to the baby’s lungs via small tubes placed in the nostril or a soft mask place over the nose.   
  • Corpak:  A soft, flexible yellow tube used for gavage feedings.  It may be passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach.  This feeding tube stays in place for several days/weeks. 
  • Cyanosis:  Blue color of the skin, lips or nails caused by low level of oxygen in the blood.   
  • Desaturation (Desat):  A drop in the blood oxygen level below an infant’s set level.  This is detected by a pulse oximeter or ‘sat monitor’.   
  • Echocardiogram (Echo): Ultrasound picture of the heart. This is a painless, non-invasive procedure that takes accurate pictures of almost all parts of the heart, looking at the structure and function of the heart.   
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG):  A non-invasive and painless study in which electrodes are placed on the chest to record the electrical activity of the heart.   
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG):  A non-invasive and painless study in which electrodes are placed on the scalp to record electrical activity of the brain. 
  • Electrolytes (Lytes):  Minerals dissolved in the blood.  Electrolytes are analyzed routinely by blood tests and include sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.   
  • Endotracheal tube (ETT):  Flexible plastic tube insertion into the trachea (windpipe) through the mouth for the purpose of assisting breathing or administration of medication. 
  • Extubation:  Removal of the endotracheal tube.        
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD):  A condition where contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus.  In some, reflux can irritate the lining of the throat which may cause a baby to be uncomfortable and irritable.  It may be necessary to evaluate how severe the reflux is and whether or not it requires treatment.   
  • Gavage feedings:  Feedings given through a tube passed through the nose or mouth into the stomach.   
  • Grand Rounds:  Weekly meeting of an infant’s care team.   
  • Grasp reflex:  A newborn’s reflexive grab at an object, such as a finger, when it touches the hand.   
  • Hearing Screen (BAER):  Test to examine the hearing of a newborn in which a machine monitors brain waves in response to clicking sounds played through headphones.   
  • Heart murmur:  An extra or unusual sound heard while listening to ones heartbeat with a stethoscope.
  • Heel stick:  A small sample of blood for testing taken by pricking an infant’s heel.   
  • Human Milk Fortifier (HMF):  A powdered substance sometimes added to breast milk in order to get more calories to a baby
  • Intralipids (Lipids):  White fatty solution that is given through an IV to a baby who is not able to take enough calories/fats from milk (breast milk/formula) feedings.   
  • Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR):  A condition where the baby doesn’t grow as big as it should in the uterus. These babies are small for their gestational age, and their birth weight is below the 10th percentile.
  • Intubation:  Insertion of a tube (ET tube) into the trachea (windpipe) to help the baby breathe.   
  • Jaundice:  A yellowing of the skin and/or eyes caused by the accumulation of bilirubin.  It can usually be treated with phototherapy (bililights).   
  • Kangaroo Care:  Skin-to-skin contact between parent and baby.  During kangaroo care, the newborn dressed only in a diaper is placed on the parent’s chest.   
  • Lanugo:  The fine, downy hair that often covers the shoulders, back, forehead and cheeks or a prematurely born newborn.   
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap):  A procedure in which a fine needle is inserted between two bones at the base of the spine to remove a sample of spinal fluid for testing.   
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):  A scan that uses magnetic fields to generate cross-sectional images of the head or body.  
  • Meconium:  A dark green, sticky substance present in the fetal intestinal tract before birth.  It is the first stool passed by the newborn.   
  • Nasogastric Tube (NG tube):  Narrow, flexible tube inserted through the nostril, down the esophagus and into the stomach.  It is used to give food or to remove air or fluid from the stomach.   
  • Nasal Cannula:  A light, flexible tube used to give supplemental oxygen to a newborn.  Oxygen flows through two prongs placed in the nostrils.   
  • NPO (nothing by mouth):  A Latin abbreviation for ‘nothing by mouth’.  If a baby is kept NPO, nutritional needs will be met by intravenous (IV) fluids.   
  • Orogastric tube (OG tube):  Narrow, flexible tube inserted through the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach.  It is used to give food or to remove air or fluid from the stomach. 
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA):  A blood vessel that is needed before birth to move blood past the lungs because oxygen is supplied through the placenta when baby is still in the mother’s womb.  This vessel should close soon after birth.  If it does not, it is called a PDA and may need to be treated with medications or surgery to close it.   
  • Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC Line):  A type of central catheter line that can be used for long periods of time.  They are inserted through a peripheral vein, such as in the arm or leg. 
  • Residuals:  The amount of undigested milk left in the stomach, measured just before the next feeding.  This may be checked by pulling back on the feeding tube with a syringe.   
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS):  Respiratory problems due to lung immaturity.   
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV):  A common virus affecting the respiratory tracts and can be more serious in preemies.  Symptoms include rapid breathing, coughing, wheezing and   sometimes even respiratory failure.  RSV season is generally October – April.  
  • Room Air:  The percentage of oxygen that is normally found in the air – 21 percent.   
  • Phototherapy:  The method of treatment of jaundice using bililights 
  • Saturation (O2 Sats):  An indication of the amount of oxygen getting to baby’s tissues/organs. 
  • Sepsis:  A severe infection in the blood that can spread to other areas of the body.  A baby can be infected while still in the uterus, during delivery or after birth.  The treatment is IV             antibiotics.
  • Suctioning:  Removal of mucus or other fluid from the nose, mouth or endotracheal tube using a plastic tube attached to a suction device.  This keeps your baby’s breathing passages clear and makes him more comfortable.   
  • Surfactant:  A substance produced by the lungs that helps keep the small air sacs of the lungs open.  Without surfactant, the air sacs tend to collapse or stick together.  If a baby is not able to produce surfactant due to prematurity of the lungs he may be given some to help with breathing.   
  • Tachycardia:  A faster than normal heart rate.  In an infant this is usually above 180 beats per minute.   
  • Tachypnea:  A faster than normal breathing rate.  In an infant this is usually above 60 breaths per minute.   
  • Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN):  IV fluid that contains the personalized nutrition required for growth including calories, protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Ultrasound:  Imaging of body parts using sound waves.  The reflected sound waves are analyzed by computer and turned into pictures. 
  • Umbilical Catheters:  (UAC or UVC):  Small plastic tube is placed in the vein (UVC) or artery (UAC) in the umbilical cord.  They can be used to check blood samples, monitor blood       pressure and/or give fluids or medications.    
  • Ventilator (Vent or Respirator):  A machine that can assist the premature or sick baby with breathing. 




Cardon Children's Medical Center
1400 S. Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 412-KIDS (5437)
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