Not only is the medical jargon unfamiliar, but then everyone uses abbreviations which makes it even less clear. To help you, we've complied a list of the most common abbreviations used in NICU. See also the full Glossary.

ABG    Arterial Blood Gas Test 

An arterial blood gas test measures the acidity and levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood from an artery. The test looks at how well lungs work.

AGA Appropriate Gestational Age 

Describes a foetus or baby whose size is within the normal range for his or her age or gestation.

ASD Arterial Septal Defect 

A hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart.

ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder 

A condition that affects how someone interact with people and the world around them.

B/M Breast milk
BM Bowel movement
BP Blood Pressure

The pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the vessels of walls to blood vessels

BPD Broncho Pulmonary Dysplasia

Damage to lungs which sometimes occurs after ventilation or intensive oxygen therapy (see CLD)

Brady Bradycardia

An abnormally slow heart rate. When baby's heart rate drops below 100 beats per minute.

BW Birth Weight 
CA++ Calcium
CBC Complete Blood Count

A count of the different types of cells present in blood. Red cells carry oxygen, white cells for fighting infection and platelets for prevention of bleeding.

CHD Congenital Heart Disease 

An abnormality of the heart that occurs shortly after conception

CLD Chronic Lung Disease

Long-term respiratory (breathing) problems and dependence on oxygen following a long period of ventilation. Also known asbronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

CO2 Carbon Dioxide

The gas produced by the body during metabolism, which is removed by breathing out.

CP Cerebral Palsy

Nervous system disorder, characterised by abnormal muscle tone (high tone) and movement.

CPAP Continuous Positive Airway Pressure 

A type of ventilation that delivers oxygen or air under pressure to baby through their nose though small tubes.

CPR Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation 

Resuscitation to re-establish breathing and heart rate.

CVI Cortical Visual Impairment 

A form of visual impairment that is caused by a brain problem rather than an eye problem.

CVL Central Venous Line 

A soft, long plastic tube called a catheter that is placed in a vein.

CVP Central Venous Pressure 

CVP measures the amount of blood returning to the heart and the ability of the heart to pump the blood into the arterial system.

D5W Dextrose 5% in water 

A solution of a naturally occurring sugar in water given intravenously.

D10W Dextrose 10% in water 

A solution of a naturally occurring sugar in water given intravenously.

DDH Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips 

Where the ball and socket of the hip do not develop properly.

DNR Do Not Resuscitate 

A medical order not to resuscitate or revive a terminally ill baby.

DU DU Delivery Unit
EBM EBM Expressed breastmilk
ECG Electrocardiogram 

Machine that records activity of the heart (also known as EKG)

Echo Echocardiogram

Test to look at the heart using sound waves through the chest a bit like ultrasound during pregnancy

ECMO Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation

A machine that supports heart and lung function when other treatments do not work.

EDD Estimated Date of Delivery
EKG Electro-Encephalogram (EKG)

Machine that measures electrical activity in the brain.

ELBW Extremely Low Birth Weight 

Baby born weighing less than 1000g (2lbs).

ETT Endotracheal Tube

A tube placed through either the baby's mouth or nose into the trachea (windpipe).

FAS Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

A set of physical and mental problems in a baby that occur as a result of a mother drinking alcohol whilst pregnant.

FEBM Fortified Expressed Breast Milk

Breastmilk with special nutrients added to aid growth.

GERD Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
HFV High Frequency Ventilation 

A type of ventilation that gently vibrates the baby's chest and gives hundreds of tiny breaths per minute to hold the (air sacs) alveoli in the lungs open.

HMD Hyaline Membrane Disease

Another name for Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

IMV Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation (IMV)

A form of ventilation where a set number of breaths is given per minute by the ventilator.

IUGR Interuterine Growth Retardation

Babies born too small for their gestational age.

IV Intravenous

A tiny plastic tube or metal tube (straw-like) placed in a vein, through which fluids and nutrients are given.

IVH Intraventricular Haemorrhage

Bleeding in and around the hollow parts (ventricles) of the brain.


Low Birth Weight baby 

Baby weighs less than 2,500 g (5.5 lbs)

LP Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap

A procedure where a sample of spinal fluid is obtained by placing a needle in the small of the back, between vertebrae (the back bones) to take some spinal fluid for testing.

MAS Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

Condition in which baby inhales meconium into the lungs.  If a baby inhales meconium into its lungs before delivery it can cause problems with breathing when born.

MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging

A computerised image used to view any part of the body not using X-ray but magnetism

NBM Nothing (or Nil) By Mouth

No feeding/drinking through the mouth. Also known as NPO
from the Latin, nil per os, meaning nothing by mouth.

NEC Necrotising enterocolitis

A serious condition, infection of the wall of the intestine causing bleeding into the gut, sepsis and occasionally perforation of the gut and peritonitis.

NGT Naso Gastric Tube (NGT)

A feeding tube which goes from the baby's nose to the stomach.

O2 Oxygen
OGT Oro Gastric Tube 

A feeding tube going from the baby's mouth to stomach.

PDA Patent Ductus Arterious

In the womb a baby has a small vessel which allows blood to bypass the lungs. This normally closes shortly after delivery. When this vessel does not close by itself either medication or surgery is needed.

PICC Percuataneously Inserted Central Catheter 
PIP Peak Inspiratiory Pressure

The highest pressure that is delivered to the baby by the ventilator during a forced breath.

PKU Phenylketonuria 

A genetic disorder in which the body cannot handle essential amino acids. All babies are tested for PKU.

PVL Periventricular Leucomalacia 

Cystic areas in the brain.


Respiratory Distress Syndrome 

Breathing problem in premature babies caused by insufficient surfactant in the baby’s lungs making the lungs stiff.

ROP Retinopathy of Prematurity 

Blood vessels and scar tissue that forms in the back of eye of preterm babies.

SIMV Synchronised Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation 

A type of ventilation where the ventilator breaths are timed to the baby's.

TPN Total Parenteral Nutrition or Parental Nutrition 

Nutrition given intravenously.


Temperature, Pulse and Respiration.

TTN Transient Tachypnoea

A short term breathing problem in newborn babies.

UAC Umbilical Artery Catheter

Tube inserted into baby's umbilicus (belly button) in the artery, used to give intravenous feeds and take blood samples and record blood pressure.

UVC Umbilical Venous Catheter

Tube inserted into baby's umbilicus (belly button) in the vein, used to give intravenous feeds and take blood samples and record blood pressure.

VLBW  Very Low Birth Weight baby 

Baby born weighing less than 1500g (3lbs)



Warning about this information sheet

Our aim in preparing this sheet is to provide parent-friendly information that is easy to understand. This information sheet has been prepared by a parent of a premature baby who does not have any medical background or qualifications.  Please do not rely on it. You should always seek the advice of a doctor or medical staff and talk to them about any questions or concerns you have about your baby.

Help with this information sheet
If you spot something that is incorrect, needs updating, amending or improving or know of some useful links please email us, as we would like to keep these sheets relevant and useful.