hospital (usually a major medical center) for neonates
(infants from birth to 4 weeks of age) that are born too
early, have serious illnesses, and/or have life
threatening medical problems of sudden onset. Infants
in an NICU require close monitoring and constant,
complicated, detailed nursing and medical care.
In other words, the care is extreme or intensive, hence the name Intensive Care Unit.
Unfortunately, about 6% of all newborns are so sick that they need to be treated in an
Infants in an NICU are kept in small chambers, known as isolettes, that serve to control
aspects of their environment, such as temperature and oxygen. Keeping infants in these
chambers also helps to reduce infection. Infants are kept in the NICU for as long as is
medically necessary. If given the best care, even infants that weigh as little as two
pounds have a good chance of surviving in an NICU. The NICU consists of highly
specialized, complicated devices and equipment for monitoring infants and for reviving
them from apparent death or unconsciousness. An NICU has staff such as nurses and
doctors that are educated and trained to provide the specific type of health care needed
to neonates. This is very important because the doses of drugs, control of temperature,
and the amount of fluid and oxygen required by neonates is unique.
NICU staff members are also highly trained in understanding the processes that occur in a neonate's body
that leads to disease. Neonate comes from the Latin word "neos" meaning "new" and the word "natus"
meaning "born." Put the two words together and you get "new born."