NICU & PICU
Babies and infants are the most vulnerable population and thus require special medical assistance throughout their early years of development. They are fragile and hence it can be intimidating for you as a parent to ensure that everything goes right.
To ensure you are being helped in the right way, every hospital has dedicated neonatal (newborn) care units within their premises. In general, there are two units that though being a little different, are still closely related to one another.
Let’s dive into each of these two units step-wise to determine how they are different from each other.
What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?
Newborn babies make several adjustments (physically) once they leave the mother’s womb. While they are inside the womb, they rely on the mother’s blood supply from placenta (a temporary organ that connects the developing fetus and provides oxygen & nutrients to the fetus). However, that’s no longer the case once they are delivered out.
Thus, the babies that need intensive medical care are put in the dedicated neonatal ICU units. Each of these specialized NICU units is equipped with advanced technology and have trained and well-experienced professional doctors to assist and provide special care to these little ones. NICUs are designed not only to take care of the sick babies but even those that require specialized nursing care.
It’s always better to get your child get delivered at the hospital with any NICU facility in case of any complications in a delivery you can rest assured of proper medical care in case something goes wrong with your newborn child. Moving them out of the hospital is always riskier and must be done with extreme caution.
Every newborn is different from each other, and hence, the healthcare professionals must assess their symptoms, physical health, etc. to determine if the baby needs NICU care or not. The following factors (listed below) can place your baby at a higher risk and increase their chances of being admitted to the NICU.
The factors include:
- Drug or Alcohol abuse
- You have multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Excess or lack of amniotic fluid (a protective fluid that safeguards the fetus)
- Premature rupture of membranes (amniotic sac)
- Emergency Cesarean delivery
- Lack of oxygen changed baby’s organ systems (a condition called as birth asphyxia)
- Premature baby
- Anamolies defected during pregnancy scans
- Elderly mother
- Mother with associated medical complications like thyroid, diabetes, etc
- Any high risk pregnancy
In a general scenario, babies usually discharge out from the NICU within 48- 72 hours depending on their critical condition . However, they are readmitted in case they show signs of an infection, jaundice, poor weight gain, or any other health ailment.
Why NH for Neonatal care?
Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) at Narayana Health hospitals provide specialist – specialized care to premature and unwell new-borns. The neonatal intensive care units are manned by a highly trained team of neonatologists, nurses and other medical professionals. The neonatal ICUs are designed to provide maximum safety, comfort, and medical care to the infants. The NICU is used in cases such as —
- Premature birth
- Extremely low birth weight
- Major birth defects
- Neonatal jaundice
- Infant respiratory distress syndrome
Different Levels of care at NICU
Getting your child admitted to a hospital can be a scary experience for every parent especially if it’s the case of newborns. As most of the hospitals provide only basic care to the babies, you must run a background check on each hospital before admission.
As stated earlier, transferring the babies to other hospitals (with basic facilities and dedicated NICU departments) post-birth can be trickier and risks making them prone to myriad forms of infections. Your baby gets the best possible and near-equal care and attention in the NICU, yet each of them offers different levels of care.
Let’s check out the levels of care for each in this segment.
Similarly, like PICU, even NICU levels of care are split into 3 different categories depending on the type of care needed by the infants. The levels are as follows:
- Level 1
- Level 2
- Level 3
- Level 1: This level of care gets applicable to the newborn if its weight is more than 1800 grams or has a gestational maturity (no of weeks of the pregnancy) of 34 weeks or more.
- Level 2: In this level, the weight of the newborn should fall in the range of 1200 – 1800 grams and should have a gestational maturity of at least 30 weeks, with it not being more than 34 weeks.
- Level 3: It’s the highest level of NICU care and caters to those newborns who weigh less than 1200 grams and have their gestational maturity less than 30 weeks.
NICU & PICU FAQs
Babies are admitted to the NICU when they are born early, have health problems or had a difficult birth. At the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), these babies receive around-the-clock care from a team of expert healthcare professionals.
Usually, babies are shifted to the NICU within twenty-four hours of their birth, and the length of their stay depends on their health condition. Some babies have to stay for a few hours or days, while others may stay for weeks or months. NICU is also known as a special care nursery, an intensive care nursery and a new-born intensive care nursery.
Parents are allowed to visit and spend time with their babies staying in the NICU, but other family members can visit only during set hours and only a few at a time. Children visiting the NICU must not be sick and have all their immunizations.
You can always check with the hospital staff about which family members can see the baby. Some units require the visitors to wear hospital gowns, gloves and mask before entering. This is crucial as it keeps the NICU clean and prevents babies from getting exposed to the germs.
Parents are often alarmed by all the medical equipment that they see in the NICU, but they are there to keep the baby well and healthy. Some of the equipment that you may find are:
- nfant warmers: The small beds with heaters over them help the babies stay warm.
- Incubators: These are small temperature-controlled beds enclosed by clear, hard plastic which helos maintaining your baby’s body temperature.
- Phototherapy: Phototherapy is quite helpful in the treatment of jaundice in newborns.
- Monitors: They help doctors and nurses to keep track of the baby’s vital signs.
- Feeding tubes: Premature babies may not be able to breastfeed or take a bottle yet. Feeding tubes are used to offer them nutrition.
- IVs: IVs allow medicines to be administered in small amounts through the vein.
- Ventilators: Babies in the NICU may not have breathing support. To help them breathe, the ventilator is connected to them by an endotracheal tube placed through the mouth or nose.
Children are admitted to the PICU when they are seriously ill and their medical needs can’t be met on the main hospital floors. They might be suffering from severe breathing problems from asthma, serious infections, heart conditions, complications of diabetes or involved in a serious accident.
Kids may have to be transferred to the PICU for several days if they underwent major surgery. How long they stay in the PICU depends on their condition. It is recommended to always ask the doctor or nurse about how to care for your child in the PICU.
Some kids can go their home directly from the PICU, while some others may still have to stay on the regular floor of the hospital for follow-up care. But that is a significant improvement as it means that your child no longer needs intensive monitoring and care, and they are stable.
The hospital’s regular floor will offer the necessary resources and care for the speedy recovery of your child.