Glossary of Terms Used in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Children's Hospital Colorado


  • Acidosis: An excess of acid in the body
  • Abdominal film: An x-ray picture of the abdomen showing the stomach and intestines
  • Anemia: A low concentration of red blood cells
  • Antibiotics: Medications that kill bacteria or slow their growth; used in treating bacterial infections
  • Apnea: Irregular or absent breathing, such as pauses in breathing
  • Bagging: A procedure used to temporarily help a baby breathe. This procedure requires use of a bag, which is placed over the baby’s mouth, nose and/or endotracheal tube
  • Bicarb (Sodium Bicarbonate): Medication given intravenously to treat acidosis
  • Bili-lights: See Phototherapy
  • Bilirubin: A breakdown product of the blood which can cause jaundice
  • Blood pressure: Measure of heart and circulatory function
  • Bradycardia: Heart rate less than 80
  • Calcium: A chemical element which is necessary for the normal function of several systems of the body such as the heart, nerves and bone
  • Central Venous Catheter (CVC): A catheter threaded into a major vein. The tip of this catheter usually empties directly into the heart. The catheter is used to provide fluid and nutrition when a baby cannot eat. May be referred to as a Broviac, central or PICC line.
  • Chest film: An x-ray picture of the chest showing the heart and lungs
  • Chest Physiotherapy (CPT): Gentle percussion, vibration and suctioning to help remove mucus from the airways
  • Circumcision: The procedure of removing the foreskin from the penis
  • Culture: A laboratory test used to screen for infection of various body fluids. It usually takes 2-3 days to obtain the results of these cultures
  • Cutdown: A catheter inserted into a vein or artery by a tiny incision made in the skin. It is used to give intravenous fluids and/or to obtain blood samples.
  • Cyanosis: A bluish discoloration of the skin and lips due to a low oxygen blood level
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): An order written by the doctor, at the request of the family, not to revive an infant in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): A record of the electrical current produced by the heart muscle used to help assess the heart’s structure and function
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): A record of the electrical activity of the brain which can provide information about brain function
  • Electrolytes: Certain body chemicals or salts (e.g., sodium, potassium and chloride) which must be present in normal concentrations for optimal function of all cells
  • Endotracheal tube (ET Tube): A breathing tube inserted into the trachea (windpipe) through the mouth
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO): A heart-lung bypass utilized to improve oxygen delivery to certain critically ill babies
  • Extubate: A procedure in which a breathing tube is removed from the trachea
  • Glucose: A sugar which is a principal source of energy
  • Gram (gm): The basic unit of weight in the metric system; 30 grams equal 1 ounce
  • Heart failure: Failure of the heart to pump normally
  • Hematocrit: A test to measure the concentration of red blood cells in the blood
  • High Frequency Ventilator (HFV): A high-frequency breathing machine that provides rapid breaths to certain critically ill babies
  • Hyperalimentation: An intravenous nutritional fluid given to infants to help them grow; also called Total Parenteral Nutrition, or TPN
  • Hypocalcemia: A blood calcium level below normal
  • Hypoglycemia: A blood sugar level below normal
  • Hypotension: Low blood pressure (see Blood Pressure)
  • Incubator (also known as an isolette): A special type of enclosed bed that regulates the baby’s temperature and provides noise reduction
  • Intravenous (IV): A method for giving medication and/or fluids into a vein
  • Intubate: A procedure in which a breathing tube is placed into the trachea. The patient is then placed on mechanical ventilation.
  • Jaundice: The yellow color of the skin caused by too much bilirubin in the blood
  • Kilogram (kg): A unit of weight in the metric system; One kilogram equals to 2.2 pounds
  • Leads: A set of wires placed on a baby’s skin that connect to a monitor which records heart rates and respirations
  • Medical care team rounds: The daily meeting of doctors, nurses, you and other hospital personnel to discuss your baby’s condition and treatment
  • Monitor equipment: used to continuously measure the baby’s heart and breathing rate
  • Murmur: An abnormal heart sound that can be heard with a stethoscope
  • Nasogastric Tube (NG Tube): A plastic tube which is passed through the nose into the stomach and is used for giving feedings and medicines, or for removing stomach fluids
  • Nebulizer: A device which adds moisture to the air or oxygen that may be used in your infant’s breathing treatments
  • Neonatology: The pediatric critical care-specialty concerned with medical issues of the newborn baby
  • Nitric Oxide (iNO): An inhaled gas therapy which increases blood flow to the lungs and improves blood oxygen levels
  • NPO: An abbreviation meaning the baby cannot be fed by mouth
  • One Touch®: A test for blood sugar that uses a small amount of blood from a finger, toe or heel
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA): Failure of a heart blood vessel to close after birth. This may require medical or surgical closure
  • PCO2: A measure of the carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Phototherapy: Fluorescent light therapy which is used to treat jaundice
  • Pneumonia: An infection in the lungs
  • PO: An abbreviation meaning to deliver by mouth or with feeding
  • PO2: A measure of the oxygen in the blood
  • Potassium: One of the body’s electrolytes (see Electrolytes)
  • Pulse Oximetry: Measures blood oxygen content through the skin
  • Red blood cells: The cells in the blood which contain hemoglobin and carry oxygen
  • Residual: The amount of formula remaining in a baby’s stomach after a feeding. Also called an aspirate.
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS): Respiratory failure due to lung immaturity or infection
  • Retracting: The "pulling in" of a baby’s chest during breathing
  • Room Air: The air we all breathe which has an oxygen concentration of 21%
  • Sodium: One of the body’s electrolytes (see Electrolytes)
  • Lumbar Puncture (LP): Insertion of a small needle through the back into the spinal canal to obtain a sample of spinal fluid. Also called a spinal tap.
  • Stool: Bowel movement
  • Suction: Removing mucus from the nose and throat or from an endotracheal tube
  • Surfactant: A substance lining the lungs, which is often absent or decreased with infants in respiratory distress. Surfactant is also a medication which is instilled in the lungs as part of treatment
  • Transcutaneous Monitor (TCM): A monitor with a special sensor that is placed on the skin to provide a continuous reading of oxygen or carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Warmer: A special bed with an overhead heater, which keeps the baby’s temperature controlled.