Being in hospital is sometimes a completely new (often overwhelming) experience. The doctors and nurses may use terms that you’ve never heard of before. Here’s a helping hand for some of the common terms that might be used.
Click on each of the terms below to expand
These are tubes that go in to an artery so that blood samples can easily be taken, and blood pressure can be monitored.
This is what is taken from the stomach before a tube feed. It’s usually done by a nurse, who will use a syringe to draw up a bit of liquid from the stomach – they then test it (by using a pH strip and checking the colour) to make sure that the tube is still in the right place.
a small plastic tube that is often put in to a baby’s hand or foot to get fluids (such as medicines) in. Whilst cannulas can make things a bit fiddly, it doesn’t stop you being able to have cuddles with your little one.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure – this is gentle breathing support that keeps the baby’s lungs inflated.
This is a term used to mean that saturations (oxygen levels) are dropping. Often babies in NICU have their saturation levels (sats) monitored – the machine will beep if they drop below a certain level.
Expressed breast milk. If you aren’t able to breastfeed your baby at the moment then you may want to try expressing. Ask one of the nurses if there is support available. EBM can then be given via a feeding tube (see NG tube). Please don’t be disheartened though if you struggle to express, it’s not always easy and not for everyone.
Electroencephalogram – this is a test that measures brain wave patterns. It’s done by placing small discs attached to wires on to the scalp. These send signals to a computer where the results are recorded. It’s not painful, but getting the glue from the discs off after can be a little challenging!
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (hypoxic = lack of oxygen, ischemic = restricting blood flow, encephalopathy = affecting the brain).
Also IV drips, are tibes that put fluids and medicines directly in to the baby’s veins. They can go in to different parts of the body (sometimes finding a suitable place can be a bit tricky!)
This is a procedure where a needle is put in to the back (the spinal canal) to take fluids for testing.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – is a scan that takes images of the brain and can determine where any damage may have occurred.
Nasogastric tube – a thin plastic tube that goes to the stomach via the nose, to get milk and medicines in to little ones who can’t feed or struggle to swallow.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – a special place for our most important peeps, where there are medical professionals and advanced equipment to provide care when it’s most needed.
Orogastric Tube – this is the same as the NG tube, but goes to the stomach via the mouth. Sometimes babies need help breathing through their nose, so an NG tube isn’t possible.
Physiotherapist (physio) – you may be introduced to a physio early on, who can help look at thinks like your baby’s muscles and tone (whether they are quite stiff or a bit floppy), or their chest if they are a bit crackly. They may show you some stretches and moves to do with your baby to help, and look at good positioning in the cot.
Speech and Language Therapist – one of a team of professionals that you may be introduced to. Even though you may think your baby is too small to be speaking, they can often look at how your baby is swallowing, and recommend exercises you can do to help them if they are struggling.
Also known as Sarnat grading scale or classification – this is a classification scale for HIE and ranges from mild (Grade I) to sever (Grade III).
A machine that measures oxygen saturation levels – a probe shines a light through a finger or toe and measures how much oxygen your baby is getting. The top score is 100, but your nurse/doctor will explain what is an acceptable level for your baby. If they drop below it then they might need some oxygen to help them.
A well established, standard treatment for babies who have experienced moderate to severe HIE. The baby’s temperature is lowered, by using a special cooling mattress or cooling wrap, to 33.5 degrees (from 37 degrees), usually for 3 days. This is to limit the extent of injury that may have occurred.
Tubes that go in to the umbilical cord to give fluids and medicines and to monitor blood pressure.
A machine that helps with breathing, by pushing air and oxygen, via a tube in the windpipe to the lungs.