November is Prematurity Awareness Month

In recognition of Prematurity Awareness Month in November, please check out some of the life-saving treatments and care being offered at CHOC Children’s to babies, including some of the tiniest of them all!

The nursery at home may be prepped; prenatal classes passed with flying colors; and mom’s bags packed and ready to go for baby’s delivery.  But, all the planning in the world rarely prepares parents for having their precious newborn admitted into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  For families in Orange County and beyond, the CHOC Children’s NICU provides leading-edge care in a family-centered environment dedicated to securing healthy futures for the community’s youngest, most fragile children.

CHOC’s 54-bed Level IIIC NICU – the only one in the region – offers the highest level of neonatal intensive care available.  Providing world-class expertise and cutting-edge technology to treat the most complex conditions affecting newborns, the unit features a two-bed Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) unit. Often used for infants suffering from respiratory or cardiac failure due to birth defects or a severe infection, ECMO is a life-saving therapy that mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs, allowing the patient to rest while natural healing of any affected organs take place. CHOC’s ECMO unit is the only one of its kind in Orange County.

CHOC’s NICU is the first hospital in the region to offer the Olympic Cool-Cap System to prevent or reduce the severity of neurological injury associated with moderate or severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). (HIE is damage to the brain and spinal cord as a result of inadequate oxygen.)

Clinical trials have shown that temporarily lowering brain temperature by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius within six hours of birth may reduce the risk of death or disability in infants with moderate or severe HIE.  CHOC experts utilize the cool-cap technology to cool the newborn’s brain for 72 hours and then slowly re-warm the patient for an additional four.

CHOC also opened a special unit within the NICU that focuses on caring for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies. The Small Baby Unit, staffed with highly-trained staff, is designed for babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation or who weigh less than 1,000 grams, and is the only one of its kind in the Southern California area.

The unit has been designed to be as womb-like as possible to aid in an infant’s development. The lighting is dimmed, and voices and other noises, including the hospital’s overhead paging system, are reduced to “library level.” The unit has noise-absorbing tiles on the floor and ceiling. Even the walls curve away from each other in order to deflect sound.

CHOC understands the fear and anxiety experienced by parents of NICU patients.  It’s one of the reasons mom and dad are part of the care team, and are encouraged to spend as much time at their baby’s bedside as possible.  Parents are also encouraged to provide skin-to-skin “kangaroo care” – even in the Small Baby Unit – as soon as it’s safe for the baby.

No parent wants to imagine a baby in a NICU.  But, if a newborn requires life-saving neonatal care, there’s no place like CHOC.


To learn more about the NICU at CHOC Children’s, please click here:

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