NICU Equipment and Its Purpose
Premature or critically ill newborns do not have the ability to regulate body temperature. For this reason, your baby may be placed in either an incubator or under an overhead radiant warmer. A sensor attached to your baby’s skin monitors body temperature and adjusts the heat accordingly. The incubator is fully enclosed, protecting your baby from sudden temperature changes. You can care for your baby by inserting your hands through the round portholes on the incubator’s sides.
All NICU infants will be placed on a cardiorespiratory monitor. This monitor tracks the heart rate and respiratory rate by leads on the baby’s chest. Central Monitors are located at each nurse’s station. When an alarm goes off, look at your baby for signs of distress. The nursing staff will assist you with the signs and symptoms of distress.
Blood Pressure Monitor
Your baby’s blood pressure will be taken the same way as your own. A small blood pressure cuff is wrapped around your baby’s arm or leg and inflates, picking up heart beats too soft to hear through a stethoscope. The blood pressure reading will display on the monitor.
Pulse Oximeter (Biox)
A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood. This monitor is usually taped to the baby’s hand (or finger) or foot (or toe). The monitor’s special red light passes through the baby’s skin and indicates the baby’s oxygen saturation level. Each baby will have individually set limits. In order to obtain an accurate reading, the monitor needs to be able to pick up the baby’s heart rate. A baby’s movements can interfere with the ability to pick up a heart rate and can lead to false alarms.
Phototherapy lights are special lights that help decrease bilirubin levels. Increased bilirubin levels cause the condition known as jaundice, the yellowing of a baby’s skin. The baby’s clothes and blankets are removed so s/he will be exposed to as much light as possible. His or her eyes are covered with a mask for protection.
Oxygen Hood/Nasal Cannula
If your baby needs oxygen, but can breathe on his or her own, an oxygen hood may be placed over his/her head or a nasal cannula may be placed into his/her nose. Oxygen is delivered through the tubing to the baby.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Pressurized air, sometimes with additional oxygen, is delivered to the baby’s lungs through little tubes that fit into the nostrils. Delivering oxygen under pressure helps to keep the air sacs in the lungs open as the baby inhales and exhales.
Endotracheal Tube (ET Tube)
This tube goes from the baby’s mouth into the windpipe. It is secured with tape and attaches to a breathing machine. It allows the machine to deliver air and oxygen directly to the baby’s lungs.
This machine assists breathing and delivers oxygen under pressure to the infant as needed through the ET tube.