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The Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center provides the highest level of care available to premature and critically ill newborns. As a Level IV newborn intensive care unit, the NICU is staffed by highly skilled physicians, nurses and other staff who offer advanced therapies in an atmosphere of compassion and concern. As part of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s, the NICU is a regional referral center for premature and critically ill newborns.
The NICU cares for babies who have complex medical conditions requiring pediatric subspecialty care. Babies who need intensive care but do not require subspecialty care are typically admitted to one of Cincinnati’s two other newborn intensive care units, Good Samaritan Hospital or University of Cincinnati Medical Center, or to Kettering Medical Center in Dayton. Our neonatologists work in collaboration with these hospitals to support their NICUs.
Each year, more than 700 critically ill newborns are transferred to our NICU for specialty care. They come from 16 local birthing hospitals as well as from hospitals in other parts of the country, from emergency rooms and even from home.
The NICU’s dedicated, multidisciplinary team is known for its expertise in areas such as:
Neonatologists (physicians specializing in the care of critically ill babies) provide leadership for the NICU’s core medical team, which also includes pediatric and fetal surgeons, specially trained nurses, therapists, nutritionists, pharmacists and social workers.
Other specialists, including cardiologists, urologists, neurosurgeons and many others, are available as needed. As many as 30 team members participate in daily rounds in the NICU, all of them working together to care for babies with complex medical needs.
The physicians, nurses and other health professionals in our NICU regard parents as an integral part of the care team. They encourage them to ask questions, share their observations and make suggestions to enhance the NICU experience for both babies and families.
Our nurse educators help parents care for their baby’s needs while in the NICU, which can foster parent-child bonding and prepare the family for life after intensive care. Lactation consultants meet regularly with mom and baby to create a positive breastfeeding experience. In addition, our social workers and chaplains offer extensive support to help families cope with the emotional strain of having a critically ill child.
When babies are discharged home from the NICU, follow-up care is essential to their health and well-being. The Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s provides a comprehensive follow-up program for these high-risk infants. Learn more about the High-Risk Infant Follow-Up Program.
Cincinnati Children’s provides specialized care for babies who are born prematurely − as young as 23 weeks’ gestation. These newborns typically experience multiple medical issues, which can include respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, anemia (low red blood cell count), feeding problems and chronic lung disease.
Prematurity is a growing problem in the United States. Currently, one in eight babies is born prematurely, and more than a half-million babies were born prematurely in 2007. The prematurity rate (for babies born at less than 37 weeks’ gestation) has increased by 36 percent since the 1980s, according to the March of Dimes.
“Prematurity is a serious issue, and it is on the rise,” says Beth E. Haberman, MD, medical director of the NICU at Cincinnati Children’s. “Most of the time, the cause of prematurity is not known. However, known causes include a lack of adequate prenatal care, the use of fertility treatments and a higher incidence of women waiting until their late 30s or early 40s to have children. Good prenatal care and comprehensive treatment after birth are essential to help these babies fulfill their potential.”
One way in which specialists at the Perinatal Institute care for premature babies is through continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a less invasive alternative to the ventilator. A device is used to help the baby breathe spontaneously despite underdeveloped lungs and immature muscles. It allows doctors to stabilize very small babies in the delivery room, transport them safely to intensive care and even keep them off the ventilator, reducing their risk of infection and chronic lung disease. CPAP can be used for as long as a baby requires respiratory support, although a ventilator may be needed if the baby’s condition worsens.
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