The NICU contains many machines and other types of equipment used to care for sick babies with many different problems. These machines seem less intimidating when you understand how they can help your baby. Following is a list of some of the special equipment and procedures that most babies in the NICU will have.
The Giraffe Omnibed can work either as an open bed with a warming device above the baby or as an incubator (closed bed) that heats up the air and surfaces around the baby to keep him or her warm. Most babies are admitted to this type of bed and remain on it for most of their time in the NICU. There are portholes in the sides of the incubator to provide access for you and NICU personnel to care for your baby. The top of the Omnibed can be raised quickly to make your baby more accessible but still keep them warm. The bed has a probe that is placed on your baby's skin to help monitor temperature. The bed will be kept in the closed position most of the time to provide the best temperature regulation for your baby.
Babies in the Brandon NICU are monitored by attaching leads which are taped to their chest and limbs to keep track of their vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation). These monitors are set to alarm if any of the baby's vital signs are outside of the normal range. Sometimes the baby's normal movement or other factors can cause a false alarm. Your baby's nurses are prepared to look at the baby as well as the monitor to determine if something is truly wrong.
Premature and sick babies, who are not able to take regular feedings for a period of time, will need to receive fluids and nutrition by IV. Also some medications must be given through an IV. This may be done using the following:
- Peripheral IV - A short, thin line (tube) that is placed into one of the baby's veins, usually in the arms or legs. It can be used to give IV fluids, nutrition and medications.
- Umbilical Venous Catheter (UVC) - A small flexible line put into the umbilical vein through the umbilicus or "belly button". This tube is also sometimes used for blood samples, but is mainly used to give IV fluid and medicine to the baby. Umbilical catheters are not painful to the baby. The main complications that can occur involve infection and bleeding. These occur rarely and your baby's doctor or nurse can answer questions you may have about them.
- Percutaneous Intravenous Central Catheter (PICC) - A long thin flexible line passed through the baby's skin, usually in an arm or leg, into a blood vessel that leads deep into the baby's body. They are used to give IV fluids, nutrition and medications. They usually last longer than a regular peripheral IV.
- Umbilical Artery Catheter (UAC) - A small flexible line put into one of the two arteries in the baby's umbilicus or "belly button". Blood samples can be taken from the line and tested to check the oxygen in the baby's blood. This helps to tell the doctors and nurses how well the baby's lungs are working to supply oxygen to the baby. Blood pressure can be monitored, to tell how well the baby’s heart is working. Fluids are also given to the baby through the UAC.
- Peripheral Artery Catheter (PAC) – a short thin tube like a peripheral IV but placed in an artery near the wrist or ankle, used for blood pressure monitoring and blood sampling.
Many premature and sick fullterm babies need help with breathing. This is provided by the following:
Ventilator - A machine that gives extra breaths of air and/or oxygen under pressure to the baby. The machine breathes for a baby who can't breathe on their own or who is very sick and working hard to breathe. The ventilator is set to give a certain number of breaths to the baby each minute. Even when the baby can breathe a little on their own, the ventilator can give extra support to the baby.
The ventilator is attached to a plastic tube (endotracheal or ET tube). The ET tube is placed through the baby's nose or mouth. It goes through the voice box and into the baby's windpipe. Air from the ventilator entering the windpipe then travels into the baby's lungs. This tube is taped in place. Then the ventilator begins the work of pushing air in and out of the baby's lungs. Extra oxygen is also given through the ventilator.
Since the ET tube goes through the voice box, you will not hear your baby cry or make sounds. Once the tube is removed, the baby will be able to make sounds again.
Most ventilators give babies breaths at the rate they would normally breathe (40-60 times a minute). Some babies have conditions that require a much faster respiratory rate. This is accomplished by using a high frequency ventilator or oscillator. It will give the baby oxygen without using a lot of pressure. In order to do this, it gives hundreds of short little "breaths" every minute. The baby's chest will look like it is shaking very fast instead of rising and falling slowly. Some babies only need the high frequency ventilator for a few days. Other babies may need it for weeks. As your baby gets better, it will slowly be removed and the regular ventilator will take over again.
Nasal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) - A mixture of air and oxygen is given through a special device placed on the nose to maintain some extra air pressure in the breathing passages and keep the lungs from collapsing when the baby exhales.
Oxygen hood - A plastic tent that is placed over the baby's head through which air with an increased oxygen content is administered.
Nasal cannula - Small prongs that go into the baby's nose through which air mixed with oxygen is administered.