Neonatal Jargon Buster

You will often hear the nursing and medical staff speaking with terms that you may not be familiar with.  If ever you do not understand what is being said, please do not be afraid to ask a member of staff who will try to explain the language that is being used.
Please find below a list of terms more commonly used on the neonatal unit.


Aspirates are small amounts of fluid that are taken from an NG or OG tube. They tell us whether your baby is absorbing milk given through the tube. They can also tell us if your baby may have an infection of its' tummy, if the colour of the fluid changes to a greenish or dark colour (rather than a 'milky' colour).


Bradycardias are times when your baby's heart rate falls below a level that is not 'normal'.  There can be a number of reasons for this and most are quite innocent and last only a number of seconds.

A cannula is a small plastic tube that is often sited in a baby's hand or foot.  It is used to give your baby fluids or antibiotics.

Cranial Ultrasound   

This is a scan of your baby's head, which is performed at the cot side. It is the same type of scanning machine that is used when mom is pregnant. The premature brain is at more risk of bleeding. Ultrasound scan can diagnose and monitor that.


Blood cultures are taken when poorly babies are first admitted to the neonatal unit. A small sample of blood is placed into a sterile bottle and any germs that may be in your baby's blood will grow in this 'culture' .This will help to tell us if your baby has a confirmed infection and whether your baby is on the correct antibiotics.


This is when the baby's sats begin to fall below a 'normal' level


"Expressed Breast Milk"

Long line
A long line is a very delicate long plastic tube which is inserted through a vein and threaded towards a bigger vein near the heart. Usually this is used to give TPN. This line has to be inserted in a sterile manner.

NG tube         

An NG tube is a nasogastric tube. This plastic tube  is inserted into your baby's nose and is passed through until it reaches the stomach. It is used to look at the contents of your baby's tummy, to see if it is safe to feed.  Small, premature babies often cannot be fed by mouth until they are old enough to feed via breast or bottle. So NG tubes are a very important means of giving your baby milk or medicine.

OG tube                     

Is exactly the same as an NG tube, but is inserted in to the mouth (Oro Gastric Tube), rather than the nose. These are used when your baby is receiving help breathing via their nose and therefore an NG tube cannot be used.


Saturation monitoring gives the staff an indication if your baby needs oxygen. Think of it as a score, out of 100. Any lengthy period at 90 or below may well show us your baby needs some help i.e. oxygen


TPN is a special fluid (Total Parenteral Nutrition) that is given to some babies who are not being fed. It contains nutrition that will help your baby to grow and develop.


An umbilical arterial catheter is a tube that is placed in a baby's belly button (through umbilical artery), shortly after birth, only in those baby's considered to be requiring intensive care.  Often a baby needing a UAC is having a lot of help in breathing with a machine. Frequent blood tests are needed to be performed and the UAC is used for that purpose. We can monitor baby's blood pressure continuously through a UAC.


An umbilical venous catheter is similar to a UAC, as it is a tube that is inserted into your baby's belly button, but it is sited in a VEIN rather than an ARTERY.  It is often used to give fluid and drugs.  Once the baby becomes more stable, both the UAC and UVC are removed.