Kansas City NICU - advanced care around the clock for newborns who need it
Every newborn we deliver gets 24-hour TLC while in the hospital. Some babies need a more advanced level of care and may need it for a longer time. Especially those born too early — premature infants or “preemies” — need to be monitored around the clock and may need special care for specific health risks.
That’s why HCA Midwest Health has four neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), to take care of preemies and other babies who are at high risk. Our neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and allied health professionals — as many as 175 specialists — provide around-the-clock, life-saving care for our smallest miracles.
If you have your baby at any of our hospitals, you’ll have the security of knowing that specialized intensive care is nearby. And if your baby is born anywhere in the 13-county region and needs to be transferred to a higher level of NICU at HCA Midwest, our neonatal transportation service has the medical equipment and trained staff to get your baby there safely. Many healthcare providers in the region also trust HCA Midwest Health for care with high-risk mothers. So we can provide compassionate care and transporting of moms, too, so they can be near their babies. In fact, we are also home to one of the only dedicated high-risk antepartum units in the region, for women who need 24/7 care while they are pregnant.
NICUs must meet specific requirements and are designated by levels that go higher, according to their capacity to care for the smallest and most seriously ill infants.
Four HCA Midwest Health hospitals offer NICU services:
- Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s level III NICU offers Johnson County’s most advanced level of NICU care — for “micropreemies” born as early as 22 weeks. Overland Park Regional provides comprehensive care for all NICU babies, including advanced surgical care for micropreemies and other babies with serious health issue.
- Centerpoint Medical Center’s Level III NICU can care for babies born as early as 23 weeks
- Research Medical Center’s Level III NICU can care for babies born as early as 23 weeks.
- Menorah Medical Center’s 7-bed Level II NICU offers one-on-one care in an intimate, family-centered environment
Find a Neonatal-Perinatal Specialist
Call us at (913) 541-8330 to find out more about our NICUs or any of our neonatal services.
Preemies have many special needs that make their care different from that of full-term infants, which is why they often begin their lives after delivery in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU is designed to provide an atmosphere that limits stress to the infant and meets their special needs of warmth, nutrition and protection to ensure proper growth and development.
Premature babies lack the body fat necessary to maintain their body temperature, even when swaddled with blankets. So incubators or radiant warmers are used to keep them warm in the NICU.
Incubators are made of transparent plastic, and completely surround babies to keep them warm, decrease the chance of infection, and limit fluid loss. Radiant warmers are electrically warmed beds open to the air.
Nutrition and growth
Premature babies have special nutritional needs because they grow at a faster rate than full-term babies and their digestive systems are immature. Full-term babies usually weigh more than 2,500 grams (about five pounds, eight ounces), whereas premature babies weigh anywhere from about 500 grams (about one pound, one ounce) to 2,500 grams.
Breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition, but premature infants are too immature to feed directly from the breast or bottle until they're 32 to 34 weeks gestational age. Additionally, most premature infants have to be fed slowly because of the risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), an intestinal infection that primarily affects preemies.
Breast milk has an advantage over formula because it contains proteins that help fight infection and promote growth. However, pasteurized human breast milk from a milk bank or formula may be alternatives for your little one in the NICU as well. Also, special fortifiers (for calcium and phosphorous) may be added to breast milk or formula because premature infants have higher vitamin and mineral needs than full-term infants.
Some preemies who are very small or very sick cannot use their digestive systems to process food. These babies require intravenous (IV) feedings — called TPN, or total parenteral nutrition — made up of fats, proteins, sugars and nutrients.
Premature infants are prone to a number of problems, mostly because their internal organs aren't completely ready to function on their own. In general, the more premature the infant, the higher the risk of complications. Some common health complications of preemies to ask your doctor about include:
- Necrotizing enterocolitis
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Retinopathy of prematurity
To better help you help your baby during a stay in intensive care, it's wise to get as much information as possible about what to expect. If you have questions, talk to the neonatologist or the nurses.
You might want to ask the neonatologist and other doctors and/or the nurses:
- How long will my baby be in the unit?
- What, specifically, is the problem?
- What will be involved in my baby's treatment and daily care?
- What medicines will my baby have to take?
- What types of tests will be done?
- What can my baby eat and when?
- Will I be able to nurse or bottle-feed my baby — if so, when and how?
- Will someone help me learn how to nurse my baby?
- What can I do to help my baby?
- Will I be able to hold or touch my baby?
- How often and for how long can I stay in the unit? Can I sleep there?
- What sort of care will my baby need when we get home?
- Is there someone who can help us through the process?
You also may want to talk to the nurses in more detail about your baby's daily care and what to expect when you spend time with your little one. Also, ask about the visiting schedule and any rules of the NICU so you'll know which family members can see the baby and when.
Walking into the NICU can feel like stepping onto another planet — the environment is probably unlike anything you've experienced. The unit is often busy, with lots of activity, people moving around, and beeping monitors.
Once settled in the unit, your baby will receive care tailored to your little one's specific needs. Most NICU babies are on special feeding schedules, depending on their level of development or any problems they have. For instance, some infants are too premature or too sick to eat on their own, so they have a feeding tube that runs through the mouth and into the stomach. Others need high-calorie diets to help them grow.
Medications are another crucial part of NICU care — your child may take antibiotics, medicine to stimulate breathing, or something to help his or her blood pressure or heart rate, for example.
To ensure that your baby's care stays on track, the doctors also will order various tests, possibly including periodic blood and urine tests, X-rays, and ultrasounds. For infants whose care is complicated and involved, the doctors or nurses will place a line into an artery or vein so they can draw blood without having to repeatedly stick the baby.
NICU staff try to make the infants' stay in the nursery as comforting as possible for the infant as well as the families. The nurses can explain what all of the monitors, tubes, tests, and machines do, which will go a long way toward demystifying the NICU.
All the machines may seem overwhelming, but don't let them keep you from interacting with your baby. Bonding with baby in the NICU is as important as bonding with any newborn, sometimes even more so. You simply have to learn the best way to do it. Parents can visit and spend time with their NICU babies. The number of people who can visit a baby in the NICU may be limited, but parents are usually allowed to stay most of the day.
Other family members can visit only during specified hours and only a few at a time. And siblings may not be allowed in the NICU because children have a greater risk of passing on an infection. Check with the hospital staff about which family members can see your baby.
Depending on how sick your child is, you might be able to hold your little one even if he or she is on a ventilator or has an IV. If the doctors feel that would be too much for your baby, you can still hold his or her hand, stroke his or her head, and talk and sing to him or her. A gentle, consistent touch will be the most reassuring.
But for some very premature infants, touching is extremely stressful (if they were still in the womb, they would have little tactile stimulation). In these cases, doctors may suggest that you minimize physical contact but still spend as much time as possible with your baby. Check with the doctor or nurses to figure out how much and what type of contact is best.
A mother who can hold her baby might be able to breastfeed or pump milk and bottle-feed. Most NICUs have screens to allow mothers to breastfeed their babies at the bedside.
Doctors and researchers have suggested that skin-to-skin contact can improve babies' recovery time and help them leave the NICU sooner. Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) is one way to help you forge a bond with your new baby. You place your baby (who's usually dressed in just a diaper and a hat) on your chest underneath your shirt, so your little one is resting directly on your skin. Loosely close your shirt over your baby to help keep him or her warm.
But the best way for parents to help their babies in the NICU is to be there for them and learn to read their behaviors. This will help you to figure out:
- when your baby is stressed and needs to rest
- when your baby is ready to bond with you
- what type of interaction your baby likes (stroking, singing, etc.)
- what time of day your baby is the most alert
- how long your baby can respond to you before getting tired
Although you want to interact with your infant, you also want to allow periods of undisturbed sleep. Let your baby set the pace for your time together and you'll both get more out of it.
Preemies often require special care after leaving the NICU, sometimes in a high-risk newborn clinic or early intervention program. In addition to the regular well-child visits and immunizations that all infants receive, premature infants receive periodic hearing and eye examinations. Speech and behavioral development also are important areas during follow-up. Some premature infants may need speech therapy or physical therapy as they grow up. Babies who had complications in the NICU may need additional care from medical specialists.
Family support is also important. Caring for a premature infant is even more demanding than caring for a full-term baby, so high-risk clinics pay special attention to the needs of the family as a whole.
Courtesy of Sharecare, Inc.