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Tests & Procedures

As soon as your baby is taken to the NICU, the staff will immediately begin a series of tests and exams to determine what treatment is necessary. Similar tests will monitor your baby's progress throughout the NICU stay.

The NICU staff will keep you abreast of all testing procedures. Rest assured that no major tests will be done without your knowledge, except in the case of a life-threatening emergency.    

Routine Tests

Vital sign measurements will include heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. The nursing staff will assess pain as the fifth vital sign. Your baby will also be weighed daily as medical conditions permit.

Blood Tests

  • Blood Gases - If your baby is on oxygen or is having trouble breathing, blood gases can assess how the lungs are working to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide and how much acid is in the blood. The doctor will use these results to determine your baby's oxygen needs. The blood required for this test may be taken from an umbilical artery catheter (UAC), directly from an artery in the wrist, or from pricking the baby's heel.
  • Complete Blood Count - This test assesses red and white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin and hematocrit. The latter two measurements test for anemia. The complete profile provides valuable information about your baby's diagnosis and response to treatment.
  • Chemistry Studies- Testing will likely include measurements of glucose (sugar), sodium, potassium, calcium and bilirubin.
  • Cultures - If an infection is suspected, the doctor may wish to culture your baby's blood, urine or spinal fluid.

Imaging Studies

  • X-rays - This common test can evaluate the condition of your baby's lungs and other organs and check the position of tubes or catheters inside the baby's body.
  • CAT Scans and MRIs - These advanced x-ray images are frequently used to examine the baby's brain. The tests are painless, but your baby may need sedation in order to be completely still during the scans. These tests are conducted in the Radiology Department.
  • Ultrasounds - These are similar to x-rays, but are made by using sound waves. These tests are also painless and may be done at your baby's bedside.
  • Echocardiograms - This is an ultrasound of the heart and will be ordered only if the doctor suspects a heart problem. This procedure is done by a cardiologist at the baby's bedside and shows the flow of blood through the heart.

Eye Exam

If your baby was premature or received oxygen, an opthamologist will examine his or her eyes before discharge.