Glossary of Terms
Home / Services / Women & Children Center

Glossary of Terms


Glossary of TermsWhile your baby is in the care of our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, you may hear words and terms that are unfamiliar or confusing. This glossary defines some of those that are most commonly used. Please ask any of us if you need additional information or if you have questions. We are here to help you and your family.


A

Adjusted Age (Corrected Age)
Adjusted age is the baby's gestational age at birth added to the age of your baby since birth. For example, a baby born at 32 weeks of pregnancy (32 weeks gestational age) who is now 4 weeks old has an adjusted age of 36 weeks. Assessment of growth, feeding skills and development should be based on the infant's adjusted age. (Also known as the corrected gestational age.)

Air Leak (Pneumothorax)
When air leaks out of a lung into spaces outside the lung airways, the lung can collapse. As a result, the chest fills with air that can sometimes prevent normal lung function.

Alveoli
Tiny air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide is exchanged.

Anemia
A condition where there are fewer than normal red cells in the blood. It is sometimes treated with a blood transfusion or injections of medication called erythropoietin.

Apgar Score
A standardized score that varies from 1-10 and depends on an infant's heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, color and reflex ability at birth.

Apnea
A pause in breathing. If it happens along with a slower than normal heart rate (bradycardia), it is often called As and Bs.


B

Bilirubin
Substance normally formed when red blood cells break down. Too much bilirubin causes jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin.)


Blood Gas
A test to measure the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide and acid in the baby's blood.

Bradycardia
Slower than normal heart rate that can be associated with apnea in premature infants.


C

Cardiorespiratory Monitor
Used to measure the baby's heart rate and respiratory (breathing) rate. Small, soft disks that are connected to a monitor by wires are placed on the baby's skin. The monitor alerts staff when there is a change beyond normal limits so they can check on the baby to make sure everything is fine.

Case Manager
A member of the NICU team who works with families and their insurance companies to arrange home healthcare services and appropriate follow-up care after the baby leaves the hospital.

Charge Nurse
A registered nurse who coordinates the care of all infants in the NICU during his or her shift.

Chronic Lung Disease (Also known as Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia)
A lung condition that can result when a premature infant is on a ventilator or supplemental oxygen for a long period of time.

Colostrum
Colostrum or "first milk" is produced in late pregnancy and in the first few days after birth. This milk is full of antibodies, low in fat and high in protein, carbohydrates and vitamin K and is very beneficial to the baby.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
A type of breathing support using room air or oxygen delivered through your baby's nose that provides a small amount of pressure to help keep the lungs expanded.

D

Donor Designated Blood
Designated donor blood is collected from donors the family selects. The process usually takes several days for so it is important to plan and prepare in advance. Blood can also be collected from a volunteer who donates blood at a blood bank. All blood is tested for safety and to make sure it is compatible with the baby's blood type.

Donor Human Milk
When milk from a baby's mother cannot be used, pasteurized human milk from a recognized donor milk bank is a healthy option.

Dubowitz/Ballard Exam
An exam that estimates a newborn's gestational age at birth from the baby's appearance, skin texture, motor function and reflexes.

E

Early Start Program
This program assists families who have children who have or are at risk for developmental delay or disability. These professionals provide assessment, planning and help coordinate the care of your baby within the local community.

Echocardiogram (Echo)
A painless, non-invasive test of the heart using ultrasound (sound waves). This test uses the same technology as used on pregnant mothers to view their fetus.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
A painless test that measures electrical activity of the heart reveals abnormal rhythm (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias) and detects heart muscle damage.

Endotracheal Tube (ET)
A soft plastic tube placed through the baby's mouth into the windpipe. The tube is attached to a ventilator that helps keep airways open and deliver oxygen to the baby. The procedure to remove the tube is called extubation.

F

Full Term
A pregnancy that has completed 37 weeks is considered full term; Full term infants are born 38-42 weeks after the mother's last menstrual period.

G
Gestational Age
Gestational age is the age of the baby in the womb and at birth. Since the exact date of conception is almost never known, the baby's age is estimated from the first day of mother's last menstrual period or by ultrasound examinations of the unborn baby (fetus).

Gavage Feeding
If a baby cannot breastfeed or bottle-feed by sucking, a small tube is placed into the nose or mouth so nourishment can be delivered directly to the stomach.

Glucose
A form of sugar that circulates throughout the body and is used for energy.

H

Head Ultrasound
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of a baby's brain.

Hearing Screen
Test to examine the baby's hearing, which by law is performed on all newborns in California.

Heel Stick
A tiny needle prick is made in the baby's heel to get a small amount of blood for tests.

Hemoglobin

A substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues. Hemoglobin also carries iron. The oxygen carried hemoglobin gives blood its red color.

Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn
A condition where red blood cells break down because the blood types of the mother and baby are not compatible. This process can result in low blood count and jaundice (yellow skin coloring).

High Risk Infant Follow-Up Clinic
A sponsored program run by Stanford University and available at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto and Dominican Rehabilitation Center in Santa Cruz. A team of professionals who specialize in different areas of care for newborns, reviews, assesses and follows the development of an infant born in a NICU for two years.

Hyperglycemia
Increased amounts of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Hyperkalemia
Increased amounts of potassium in the blood.

Hypernatremia
Increased amounts of sodium (salt) in the blood.

Hypocalcemia
Low calcium levels in the blood.

Hypoglycemia
Low amounts of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

I

Isolette
A special heated bed with clear sides that provides a controlled environment for the baby.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
A term for less than normal growth of the fetus during pregnancy. It can be caused by maternal and fetal conditions such mother's hypertension, drug use or smoking, pre-eclampsia, twins, and/or multiple fetuses.

Intravenous (IV)
A way of giving medications or fluids directly into the vein

Intubation
The insertion of soft plastic tube into the airway to deliver medicine, clear the airway of meconium (the baby's first bowel movement) or provide support for breathing.

Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)
The blood vessels in the brain of a premature newborn are very fragile. An IVH is bleeding within the normal fluid filled spaces of the brain. IVH can be detected with an ultrasound scan done at the bedside.

J

Jaundice (Hyperbilirubinemia)
Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin (yellow pigment) in the blood, giving the skin and/or eyes a yellow tone color.

K

Kangaroo Care (Also Called Skin-to-Skin Care)
Placing the baby on the mother or father's chest with skin-to-skin contact. This helps promote growth and bonding.

Kidneys, Ureters, Bladder (Also known as KUB)
An X-ray of the abdomen.

L

Lactation Consultant
A professional certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners who is trained to offer breastfeeding assistance, education and support to women interested in breastfeeding their infants.


Large for Gestational Age (LGA)
A term used to describe babies who are born weighing significantly more than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy.

Low Birth Weight
A term used to describe babies who are born weighing significantly less than expected for the number of weeks of pregnancy.

Lumber Puncture
A procedure to collect fluid produced by the brain to determine if the baby has an infection (meningitis).

M

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
A breathing problem resulting from irritation to the lungs caused by a baby breathing in amniotic fluid containing meconium (the first bowel movement) before or during birth.

MRI
A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce high quality images of internal tissues, bones and organs

N

Nasal Cannula
A small plastic tube placed under the nose to provide oxygen.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)
A potentially severe problem in the intestines that most often occurs with premature infants. The baby will begin nutrition through an IV (see PICC line) and will not be given oral nutritional feeds until the intestines heal.

Neonatalogist
A specially trained doctor who cares for premature and ill newborns. Neonatologists have a minimum of six years training after completing medical school and are board certified in general pediatrics and perinatal-neonatology.

Neonate
A newborn baby less than one month of age.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
Symptoms that occurs when a baby is withdrawing from exposure to drugs in the womb.

Nothing by Mouth (NPO)
This means that the baby cannot be fed by the mouth at this time.

O

Occupational/Physical Therapists
Specially trained and certified professionals who evaluate the baby and develop a plan that involves parents in helping their baby feel safe, learn to feed and reach other important goals.

Oximeter (Pulse Oximeter)
A machine that helps continuously monitors the amount of oxygen in the blood. A tiny cuff will be placed around the baby's toe, foot, hand or finger to monitor oxygen in the blood.

P

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
The ductus arteriosus is a normal blood vessel between the major arteries of the heart that usually closes after birth. If it stays, open (patent), and is causing problems it can be most often closed with medicine.

Perinatologist
A physician specially trained to assess and care for women with "high-risk" factors before and during pregnancy.

Phototherapy
Light therapy, done over the course of several days, to alleviate jaundice in a newborn.

Percutaneously Inserted Central Catheter (PICC Line)

A type of IV line that delivers fluids to the baby over an extended period.

Pneumonia
An infection in the lung can cause breathing difficulties, fever, and/or increased lung secretions. It can be caused by bacteria or viruses. The treatment will depend on the cause.

Polycythemia
A condition where there are too many red blood cells in the blood.

Premature Baby
A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Q

R

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) (Also called Hyaline Membrane Disease or HMD)
RDS is a breathing problem common to premature babies where the tiny air sacs of the lungs tend to collapse at the end of each breath due to immaturity of the lungs. (See surfactant)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
An infection that causes inflammation of the lower airways and pneumonia. Some babies may receive monthly shots during the RSV season (October/November-February/March) to help reduce risk of developing an RSV infection.

Respiratory Therapist
Professionals trained to assist with the care of infants with breathing difficulties.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
Babies born prematurely can develop ROP, a disorder of the blood vessels of the retina (the light sensitive part of the eye). An eye doctor examines premature babies selectively, in the NICU for this condition.

S

Sepsis
An infection of the bloodstream that is treated with antibiotics.

Small for Gestational Age (SGA)
A term used to describe newborns born significantly smaller than normal for the number of weeks of pregnancy. The small size of the SGA babies sometimes results from maternal and/or fetal medical conditions.

Social Worker
A trained professional with a master's degree who helps families address psychosocial issues and coordinates community resources to meet the family's needs. The social worker also assists with scheduling a patient care conference with the neonatologist.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age.

Surfactant
A substance that assists with the proper functioning of the lungs, by keeping the tiny air sacs open. When surfactant is absent, the air sacs tend to collapse when air is exhaled; increasing the effort, it takes to breathe. Surfactants are now available to administer directly into the lungs through an endotracheal tube when clinically indicated.

T

Tachycardia
An abnormal rapid heart beat.

Thrombocytopenia
A condition where there are too few platelets (cells produced in the bone marrow that are needed for clotting).

Total Parenteral Nutrition (Also known as TPN/ HAL hyperalimentation)
IV fluids that provide a baby who is unable to take full feedings with necessary nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, sugar, fat and minerals.

Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn (TTN)

A breathing problem common in full term babies characterized by rapid breathing, that begins at birth and improves over the first days of life.

U

Ultrasound
An ultrasound uses non-damaging sound waves to make pictures of the baby's organs and other parts of the body. It is often use to take images of a fetus in the womb, looking at the newborns heart, brain and abdominal organs.

Umbilical Artery and Venous Catheters

Tubes that are placed into an umbilical artery and/or vein of an ill newborn to allow fluids and medications to be given, and for blood to be drawn for testing. The catheter reduces the need for additional needle insertions.

V

Ventilator
A machine that helps the baby breathe. It supplies air and oxygen to the baby's lungs through an endotracheal tube at just the right rate and pressure.

Very Low Birth Weight

Refers to a baby who is born weighing less than 3 pounds, 4 ounces (1500 grams).

Vital Signs

This refers to the baby's temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory (breathing) rate.