New NICU Unit Cares For Smallest Of Preemies

UC Davis

UC Davis Children's Hospital is proud to announce the birth of its new small-baby unit.

Located within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the small baby unit is specifically equipped for the smallest babies — those who are born less than 27 weeks gestation or weigh less than 2.2 pounds. The team has taken care of infants born as young as 22 weeks.

"Infants born less than 27 weeks are a unique patient population with specialized needs, especially those born at 22 to 24 weeks," said Steven McElroy, chief of neonatology at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "This new unit provides dedicated, coordinated care for these tiniest patients in one space."

The small baby unit provides care for up to six babies at one time. The room received a full makeover earlier this year, with new paint and a host of dedicated equipment —including special breathing machines and Giraffe Omnibeds — to create a stable thermal microenvironment. Dim lighting and low noise help babies adjust to their new space.

Ensuring the best health outcomes for the smallest of babies requires care from highly-skilled providers and specialized medical equipment.

Babies born before 32 weeks gestation have higher rates of death and disability. Complications can include breathing problems, feeding problems, developmental delay, vision and hearing problems. National survival rates of infants born at 22 weeks is around 20-25%. The survival rate at UC Davis is double the national average.

"Our goal is to give these babies the greatest chance at life," said Janelle Beall, NICU nurse manager.

The unit is supported through a planned gift from local residents Victor and Phela Vesci through the Vesci Family Trust.

"We are extremely grateful to the Vesci family's gift that helped to support the development and education for our small baby unit," McElroy said.

The children's hospital's Level IV-designated NICU is a 49-bed unit that provides expert clinical care for newborns who are born prematurely, are critically ill or require surgery. The NICU admits infants born at UC Davis Medical Center or who transfer from hospitals within its 33-county service area that stretches from Central California to the Oregon and Nevada borders.

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