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What is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

The McLane Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) cares for the most fragile and premature newborns as well as full-term newborns diagnosed with serious or life-threatening conditions.

The NICU is staffed by deeply experienced pediatric physician-specialists called neonatologists. They oversee each child’s care and collaborate with other pediatric specialists, such as neurologists, cardiologists, and pulmonologists. Specialists monitor these tiny patients around the clock. The most advanced technology to support the fragile infant’s breathing and other life-sustaining measures are readily available.

The average length of stay for extremely premature infants is about three months.

NICU Locations

McLane Children's flagship NICU, located in the Temple Hospital, is the only Level IV NICU located between Dallas and Austin (Level IV is the highest level of NICU available to treat the most critically ill newborns). This 48-bed unit treats between 600 to 700 newborns each year.

The new McLane Children's NICU at College Station Hospital features a new state-of-the-art "pinwheel" design that allows important line-of-sight vision for nurses and doctors while providing privacy for families.

In addition, Waco Hillcrest Hospital and Killeen Metroplex Hospital also feature neonatal intensive care units.

What kinds of conditions do neonatologists treat?

Our neonatal specialists have advanced training in medical conditions affecting different body systems.

They treat infants in the NICU with several issues:

  • Respiratory problems—Premature infants often have not spent enough time in the womb for their lungs to fully develop. Many may need a respirator or other respiratory assistance until they grow enough to start breathing on their own. Common respiratory conditions in infants include:
    • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
    • Persistent pulmonary hypertension
    • Pneumonia
  • Birth defects (including congenital heart defects)—Our physicians identify, monitor, and treat congenital heart defects with the aid of a pediatric cardiologist. Newborns requiring surgery are cared for in our NICU. Children with birth defects of the brain, spine, intestines, kidneys, lungs, genitals, and limbs are all managed here.
  • Feeding problems—Gaining weight is an infant’s most important job. But sometimes this can be a difficult task, especially if the newborn’s health is compromised by an underlying medical condition. Our doctors and nurses monitor your baby’s weight daily. We can provide supplemental nutrition to your baby through his or her veins or through a tube placed in his or her mouth. We will help feed your baby until he or she is strong enough to be fed by breast or bottle.

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