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Glossary of Common NICU Terms

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  • The movement of an arm or leg away from the midline of the body. Abduction of both legs spreads the legs. The opposite of abduction is adduction; adduction of the legs brings them together.

  • Acidosis is the presence of excessive levels of acid in the blood or tissues. Metabolic acidosis can occur as a result of abnormal metabolism or when the kidneys are not functioning properly and are unable to excrete enough acid through the urine. Respiratory acidosis occurs when the lungs are unable to expel adequate amounts of carbon dioxide, and can be caused by either poor lung function or slow breathing.

  • Also known as 'corrected age.' This is your child's chronological age minus the number of weeks he or she was born early. For example, if your 9-month-old was born 2 months early, you can expect him or her to look and act like a 7-month old. Usually you can stop age-adjusting by the age of 2 or 3.

  • A medication used to stimulate an infant's central nervous system. It is prescribed to reduce the incidence of apneic episodes. This is the intravenous form; the oral form is known as Theophylline.

  • A condition in which the red blood cells in the blood — measured by a hematocrit, or 'crit' — are lower than normal. Red blood cells carry oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from tissue.

  • A numerical summary of a newborn's condition at birth based on five different scores, measured at 1 minute and 5 minutes. (Additional measurements are made every five minutes thereafter if the score is less than 7 at five minutes, until the score reaches 7 or greater.) Premature infants generally have lower scores than full-term infants, but the Apgar score does not accurately predict future development.

  • Cessation of breathing lasting 20 seconds or longer. Also known as an apneic episodes or apneic spells. It is common for premature infants to stop breathing for a few seconds. They almost always restart on their own, but occasionally they need stimulation or drug therapy to maintain regular breathing. The heart rate often slows with apnea; this is called bradycardia. The combination of apnea and bradycardia is often called an A&B spell.
    Apnea gradually becomes less frequent as premature infants mature and grow. There is no relationship between apnea and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • A baby whose birth weight falls within the normal range for his or her gestational age.

  • 1. The accidental sucking in of food particles or fluids into the lungs.
    2. Removal of a sample of fluid and cells through a needle.

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