Glossary

A

Acidosis: An abnormal increase in the acidity of body fluids.

Anaemia: A low level of red blood cells in the blood.

Apgar Score: Devised in 1952, it is a simple and repeatable method of assessing the health of a baby immediately after birth. The system assigns a value to each of five criteria: heart rate, breathing, muscle tone skin colour and reflex irritability (response to stimuli). The test is usually done at one and five minutes after birth, and can be repeated if the score remains low.

Analgesic: A drug used to relieve pain.

Antibiotics: Drugs used to help destroy bacteria and treat certain types of infections.

Apnoea: A pause or temporary stopping of breathing often seen in premature or sick newborns.

Apnoea Monitor: Machine that detects interruptions in breathing.

Arterial Line: A small tube placed in an artery to check blood pressure or take blood samples.

Arteries: Blood vessels that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

Aspirate: To breathe foreign material or fluids, such as milk, into the windpipe or lungs or to remove fluid by suction (e.g. checking how much milk remains in the stomach before a feed).

Asphyxia: Lack of oxygen.

B

Bagging: A method of helping a baby's breathing. A mask is connected to a squeezable bag that is placed over the baby's nose and mouth or attached to an endotracheal tube and squeezed to help breathing.

Bili lights: Fluorescent lights used to treat jaundice.

Bilirubin: A breakdown product of red blood cells, which can cause a yellowish colouring of the skin.

Blood Culture: A blood test used to detect bacteria in the blood. Done as part of a "septic workup" when an infection is suspected.

Blood Gas: A blood test performed to measure the level of oxygen, carbon dioxide and acid in the blood.

Blood Sugar or Glucose: A blood test to measure the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Bradycardia: Slowing of the heart rate, common in premature or sick newborns.

Breast Pump: An electric or manual device used by mothers for expressing milk from the breast.

Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD): A very serious condition, which causes lung damage and scarring. Often affects extremely preterm infants and occurs in some babies who were treated with oxygen and mechanical ventilation for a prolonged period.

C

Caffeine: A drug used to stimulate breathing in premature babies, also commonly found in coffee and carbonated drinks.

Cardiac Ultrasound: A test using sound waves to make a picture of the heart valves, chambers and related blood vessels.

Cardio Respiratory Monitor: To monitor heart rate, respirations and sometimes arterial blood pressure.

CAT or CT Scan: A type of x-ray where a computer is used to improve the quality of the picture.

Catheter: A small, thin plastic tube through which fluids are given or removed from the body.

Central Line: A small plastic tube that is placed in a large blood vessel near the heart, to deliver intravenous feeds and medications. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF): Clear fluid that fills the cavities of the brain and covers the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord.

Chest Tubes: A small flexible plastic tube that is placed into the baby's chest cavity to remove trapped air or fluid, allowing the lungs to expand.

Chest X-ray: May be required to assess the cause of any breathing problems.

Chronological Age: The age of the baby since birth, rather than when the baby was due.

Coagulation Studies: Blood tests done to measure the ability of the blood to clot.

Colostrum: The first fluid produced by the breast after birth and is particularly rich in nutrients. 

Congenital: Present at birth.

Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia: A birth defect involving an opening in the diaphragm. Abdominal organs, such as the intestines and stomach, can move through the opening into the chest, where they can hinder the development of the lungs.

C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure): Helps the baby's breathing by applying a positive pressure and sometimes-additional oxygen into the nose. The pressure keeps the lungs expanded and makes breathing easier.

Corrected Age: The age a baby would be if they had been born on their due date. For example, a baby that was born 3 months early, who now has a chronological age of 7 months, has a corrected age of 4 months.

Cranial Ultrasound: A test using sound waves to make a picture of the brain.

Cultures: Laboratory tests to check for infection.

Cyanosis: The bluish tinge of the skin and lips caused by insufficient oxygen.

D

Desaturation: A drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Dextrose: A type of sugar.

Diaphragm: The sheet of muscle separating the lungs from the abdomen.

Drip: A device for administering fluid at a slow rate especially into a vein.

E

EBM: Expressed breast milk.

Echocardiogram: A form of ultrasound examination that is used to study the heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG): A graphic recording of the electrical activity of the heart.

Electrode: A sensor taped to the baby's skin which is used to monitor heart rate or breathing.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): A graphical record of electrical activity of the brain.

Endotracheal tube (ETT): Small plastic tube that is inserted through a baby's nose or mouth down into the trachea (windpipe) to assist with breathing. It is attached to a ventilator.

Exchange Transfusion: A special type of blood transfusion, which involves the removal of some of the baby's blood and replaced with an equal amount from a donor. Sometimes used to treat severe cases of jaundice.

Expressing: Manipulating the breasts to produce milk. Manipulation can be done by both hand or with a breast pump.

Extubate: The process of removing the endotracheal tube from the trachea.

F

Fontanelle: The soft spots between the incompletely formed cranial bones of a foetus or an infant.

G

Gastric Tube: A small plastic tube passed through the nose or mouth into baby's stomach. This is used to feed the baby or release air from the stomach.

Gastroschisis: Birth defect involving an opening in the abdominal wall, through which the abdominal organs bulge out.

Gestational Age: The age of the baby from its conception to birth. The length of time is calculated in weeks.

Glucose: A sugar circulating in the blood, which is an important energy source for normal body function.

Group B Streptococcus: An infection (bacterial) that can be contracted by the baby as it passes through an infected birth canal, sometimes resulting in further illness. Often can be prevented treating infected women with antibiotics during labour and delivery.

Grunting: A noise made by a baby with breathing difficulties.

H

Haemoglobin: The part of the red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

Haemorrhage: Bleeding from a blood vessel.

Head Box: A small perspex box placed over a baby's head to provide oxygen.

Head Circumference: Measurement of the maximum distance around the baby's head.

Heart Failure: When the heart can't pump enough blood around to meet the body's needs.

Heel Prick: A method of collecting a small blood sample from the heel of the baby's foot.

High-Frequency Oscillating Ventilation (HFOV): Special form of mechanical ventilation, it gives very small breaths rapidly and is designed to help reduce complications to delicate lungs.

Humidicrib: A clear plastic box, which provides a warm, controlled, clean, enclosed environment where the baby can be easily observed.

Hyaline Membrane Disease (HMD): A breathing disorder that develops in premature babies because of their immature lungs. See also Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

Hydrocephalus: When too much 'cerebrospinal' fluid is collected inside the brain, which may cause rapid increase in head size.

Hypocalcaemia: A lower then normal level of blood calcium.

Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar level.

Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar level.

Hypothermia: When the body temperature drops below 35.5 degrees Celsius.

Hypoxia: A low level of oxygen in the blood stream.

I

Incubator: A humidicrib.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR): The term used for babies who are smaller than they should be for their gestational age. See also SGA.

Intravenous: Through a vein.

Intravenous Nutrition: A way of supplying nutrients directly into the blood by either a type of drip (called a peripheral drip) or a central line.

Intraventricular Haemorrhage (IVH): Bleeding in the brain, which occurs mainly in premature babies. This is quite common in extremely premature babies and is detected by doing regular ultrasound scans of the baby's brain. The bleeding is usually mild (grades I and II IVH) however grades III and IV are more serious. If your baby has an IVH the doctors will discuss your baby's condition with you in more detail.

Intubation: The process of inserting an endotracheal tube (ETT) through the nose or mouth down into to the trachea to help the baby breath.

J

Jaundice: The yellowness of the skin caused by too much bilirubin in the blood.

K

Kangaroo care: Holding a baby with skin-to-skin contact.

L

Large for Gestational Age (LGA): A baby that weighs more than most (90%) babies of the same gestation.

Lumbar Puncture: The withdrawal of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing.

M

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Imaging technique that uses magnets and computers to produce a detailed picture of tissue.

Meconium: The first bowel movements of a newborn baby, usually dark greenish and sticky.

Meconium Aspiration: If a baby becomes distressed before delivery they may pass meconium whilst they are still in the womb. If the baby inhales meconium it can cause breathing problems around the time that the baby is born.

Murmur: A sound heard with a stethoscope when blood flows in certain ways through the heart.

N

Nasal Cannula: Soft flexible plastic tubing that fit under a baby's nose to deliver oxygen.

Nasogastric Feeds (NG Feeds): Feeding through a flexible tube placed through the nose into the stomach.

Neonate: A newborn baby.

Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC): An inflammation of the bowel wall that commonly affects premature babies. It is usually treated with antibiotics, but occasionally in a severe case a baby may need surgery.

Neonatologist: A paediatrician (children's doctor) with advanced training in the care of premature and sick newborns.

O

NICU: Newborn or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Oedema: Swelling caused by too much fluid in the tissues under the skin.

Ophthalmologist: Eye doctor.

Orogastric Tube (OG Tube): A flexible tube passed through the mouth into the stomach and used to give feedings or drain stomach gas and fluid.

P

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA): Heart problem that is seen most commonly in premature babies. The blood vessels connecting the two main arteries leaving the heart remain open after they should have closed. This is treated with medication and occasionally may require an operation.

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN): High blood pressure in the lungs, leading to breathing problems, and reduced levels of oxygen in the blood.

Phototherapy: A treatment for jaundice where light is used to reduce the bilirubin level.

Pneumothorax: The escape of air from the baby's lungs into the chest cavity, which is also called a collapsed lung. A chest tube is placed to help treat this problem.

Positive End Expiratory Pressure (PEEP): Whilst baby is on a ventilator, pressure is applied on the breathe out, which helps keep the lungs from collapsing.

Post Term Infant: A baby born late, after 42 weeks of gestation

Premature Infant: A baby born early, before 37 weeks of gestation.

Pulse Oximeter: A small device that uses a light sensor to help monitor oxygen saturation in the blood.

R

Radiant Warmer: Open bed with an overhead heater to keep baby warm.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS): Serious breathing problem affecting mainly premature babies in which the lungs have difficulty holding in air. Usually results in the baby having to work harder to breathe and often requires additional oxygen.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): A virus that in premature or sick newborns can cause serious illness, such as pneumonia.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP): An eye disorder seen mainly in very premature babies, which can lead to vision loss or blindness. Usually settles by itself but may occasionally need surgery. Babies at risk of developing this will have their eyes checked regularly while they are in the NICU.

Room Air: The air we normally breathe that contains 21% oxygen.

S

Sepsis: Widespread infection of the blood.

Septic Workup: Undertake a variety of tests to determine whether a baby has an infection. May include blood cultures, urine culture, and swab of mucus or lumbar puncture.

Skin temperature probe: Monitors baby's skin temperature.

Small for Gestational Age (SGA): A baby that weighs less than most (90%) babies of the same gestation: Under the 10th percentile for weight.

Suction: A small narrow plastic tube attached to a suction pump to remove secretions from the endotracheal tube, mouth or nose.

Surfactant: A substance that coats the inside of the lungs to keep the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.

T

Tachycardia: A fast heart rate.

Tachypnoea: A fast respiratory rate.

Temperature Probe: Monitors baby's skin temperature, the information is used to help regulate the amount of heat from the overhead heater or humidicrib.

Term Infant: Baby born between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation.

Thermometer: An instrument for measuring body temperature.

T.P.N (Total Parental Nutrition): A method of giving total nutrition into a vein. It provides sugar, fat, protein, vitamins when a baby cannot have milk feeds.

Trachea: The windpipe or tube connecting the throat to the bronchi (tubes going to the lungs).

U

Ultrasound: A test using sound waves to make a picture of organs such as the brain and heart.

Umbilical Arterial Catheter (UAC): Thin tube inserted into an artery of the belly button; used to take blood samples and continuous blood pressure monitoring.

Umbilical Venous Catheter (UVC): Thin tube inserted into the vein of the belly button; used to give fluids, medications and nutrients.

Urinary Catheter: A small plastic tube placed into the bladder to collect urine.

Urine Bag: A sterile plastic bag placed to collect the baby's urine for testing.

V

Vein: A blood vessel leading toward the heart.

Ventilation: A method of helping the baby's breathing using mechanical support. The ventilator (or respirator) may take over the baby's breathing completely, or help support its own breathing efforts.

Vital signs: heart rate, breathing rate and temperature.

Vitamin K: Given routinely to all babies at birth. This vitamin is needed for normal blood clotting which is low in newborn babies.

W

Weaning: Decreasing gradually, as in decreasing the oxygen rate.

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