The NICU at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital offers intensive, daily medical care for the smallest, sickest and most fragile newborns. We can provide comprehensive services: high-risk pregnancy care and birth as well as high-risk infant care. Starting with prenatal assessments for high-risk pregnancy or when ill infants transfer to our facility, we care for them with the most advanced treatments available.
Breathing Treatments for Premature Infants
Babies born sick or prematurely frequently have lungs that are not ready to breathe room air. Underdeveloped lungs cannot deliver enough oxygen to the brain, heart and other organs.
Our initial treatments for these critically ill infants focus on helping them to breathe air with extra oxygen or to supply the body with oxygen through other means. They include:
- Continuous positive pressure and special breathing machines
- High-frequency ventilation for babies with severe respiratory failure, with or without air-leak
- Inhaled nitric oxide therapy—a treatment for hypoxic respiratory failure
- Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), to provide heart and lung support for critically ill infants unresponsive to conventional treatment. ECMO is similar to using a heart-lung machine.
Whole Body Cooling for Premature Infants
One particularly dangerous condition experienced by babies at delivery is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). In HIE, oxygen to the brain is restricted and serious injury or brain damage can occur.
MedStar Georgetown’s NICU offers a cutting-edge therapy for HIE, called whole body cooling. Reducing the body’s temperature for 72 hours and then slowly re-warming it can help limit the damage to the neural pathways in the brain.
Whole body cooling for HIE should start as soon as possible after birth, ideally within six hours. Babies born at MedStar Georgetown have access to the NICU team immediately. Babies born elsewhere in the region may transfer to MedStar Georgetown via land or air with our “mobile NICU” machines.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Center
MedStar Georgetown's NICU is a regional referral center for the treatment of advanced retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Our retinal surgeons can evaluate and immediately treat premature infants with ROP from other hospitals.
Premature babies, particularly those born before 31 weeks gestation, are at risk of developing ROP. In ROP, there is abnormal blood vessel growth. Severe cases of ROP may result in a partially or fully detached retina or blindness. Eye specialists at MedStar Georgetown follow these babies closely during the NICU stay, as well as after discharge so that babies receive care immediately and there is no danger of vision loss.
Support and Transitional Services
Our staff also offers: