Common Terms and Abbreviations Used in the NICU

Your baby is in a special part of the hospital. It’s called the NICU. This stands for neonatal intensive care unit. Your baby is getting special medical care. Below are words that you will hear used in the NICU.

BP (blood pressure): A type of measurement. BP is the force of the blood on blood vessel walls. This is caused by the heart beating and by the muscles inside the blood vessel walls.

mL (milliliter): A metric unit of volume. 30 mL equals about 1 fluid ounce.

CNS (central nervous system): The brain and spinal cord.

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure): A way to give a steady, gentle supply of air into the airway while a baby is breathing on his or her own. This can be done with a ventilator (breathing machine).

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation): A way to get the heart and lungs working again if they have stopped.

ET or ETT (endotracheal tube): A breathing tube. It goes through the mouth or nose into the windpipe.

Grams and kilograms: Metric units of weight. 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces. 1 kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.

HFV (high-frequency ventilator): A machine that gives hundreds of tiny breaths per minute.

IMV (intermittent mandatory ventilation): A way to help babies breathe using a ventilator to give a set number of breaths per minute.

IV (intravenous): Given by vein.

IV catheter: A tiny flexible, hollow plastic tube inserted into a vein over a needle. The needle comes out and the catheter stays in the vein.

IV pump: A machine used to give IV fluids.

LP (lumbar puncture): A test in which a small needle is used to remove fluid from around the spinal column.

NG tube (nasogastric tube): A feeding tube. It goes through the nose to the stomach.

NICU (neonatal intensive care unit): Part of the hospital for newborns with extra medical needs.

NPO (nil per os): No food or liquid given by mouth. (It is a shortening of a Latin term.)

O2 (oxygen): A gas in the air we breathe. It is needed for life.

OG tube (orogastric tube): A feeding tube. It goes through the mouth into the stomach.

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) or percutaneous central venous catheter (PCVC): A type of tube that is put into a central (large) vein.

Radiant warmer bed: An open bed with a heating device.

SIMV (synchronized intermittent mandatory ventilation): IMV timed with the baby’s breaths.

TPR: Temperature, pulse, and respiration.

TPN (total parenteral nutrition): Nutrition fed straight into the bloodstream.

UAC (umbilical arterial catheter): A tube put into an artery. It is put in at the stump of the umbilical cord.

UVC (umbilical venous catheter): A tube put into a vein. It is put in at the stump of the umbilical cord.

VS (vital signs): Temperature, pulse, respiration (breathing), and blood pressure.