Babies in the NICU may have difficulty breathing due to immaturity of their lungs, infections, excessive fluid in the lungs or complications with other body systems. While these problems may go away without any treatment, special equipment is often needed to help the baby breathe better.
Medical Equipment Your Baby May Need
- Nasal Cannula/Head Hood - Babies with breathing problems are given extra oxygen to help make breathing easier. A head hood or nasal cannula is used to provide this extra oxygen.
- High Flow Nasal Cannula - This is very similar to a nasal cannula except it allows higher flow rates. The oxygen is heated and humidified before reaching the baby
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) - This is a breathing machine that provides a continuous supply of oxygen and pressurized air to help keep the baby’s small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. The baby does all of the breathing on their own, but the CPAP machine helps make the work of breathing easier.
- Conventional Ventilator (sometimes called a respirator) - A small tube is inserted into the baby’s mouth and then down into the trachea or windpipe. The ventilator is then attached to this tube to help the baby breathe by gently pushing air and oxygen in and out of the baby’s lungs. A conventional ventilator may be needed if your baby:
- Does not have enough oxygen in his/her blood
- Has a high level of carbon dioxide in his/her blood
- Has fluid in his/her lungs
- Is unable to maintain adequate respiratory functions for many different reasons
- Oscillator - A different type of ventilator that gives very small continuous breaths to the baby, unlike the conventional ventilator, which gives larger breaths.
- Surfactant - One of the most common problems found in premature infants is RDS or respiratory distress syndrome. It is the early lung disease that premature infants get due to immature or lack of a lung fluid called surfactant. The air sacs in the lungs collapse (instead of opening up and stretching like little balloons), making it difficult to get enough air into the lungs. An artificial substance can be given that is delivered directly into the lungs through the breathing tube that helps prevent the air sacs from collapsing
- Nitric Oxide - This is an inhaled drug that is typically given as a constant flow into the ventilator. This is used in a condition known as persistent pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs.