- Neonatal Intensive Care
  • Search:

East Tennessee Children's Hospital >> Services & Specialties >> Specialties >> Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: NICU

Baby in NICU

Neonatal Intensive Care

More than 750 of East Tennessee Children's Hospital's smallest patients are treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) every year.

Find a Neonatology Specialist Children's Hospital LogoNeonatology at Children's Hospital
Click for more information about the
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,
including doctor bios, hours, contact
information and office directions.

NICU at Children's Hospital

The babies in the NICU were born before their due date or have:

  • Breathing problems
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome
  • Congenital birth defects

Babies move into the NICU at birth or shortly afterward. Parents may not expect to be moved to the NICU. The Children's Hospital team hopes to help you if you are scared or confused. Your baby will have a nurse practitioner and doctor, plus a nurse each shift. The staff members are there to tell your family about your baby's progress. They want to answer your questions and help you feel comfortable in the NICU.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a growing problem in Tennessee. NAS happens when babies are in contact with medications or illegal drugs in the womb. After birth, they experience withdrawal just like adults. They have a screech-like cry, claw their faces and squirm. The process is very painful. Babies can become dependent on:

  • Painkillers
  • Anxiety medicine
  • Sleep medicine
  • Illegal drugs
  • Prescription drugs

Children's Hospital developed a special treatment protocol for babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. NAS may be a tough subject for parents, so the NICU works with the Children's Hospital Social Work Department if needed. The hospital sets up follow-up care and safeguards for when you return home.

Safety, Quality and Expertise

Safety, quality and cleanliness are always the highest priorities of our work in the NICU and in all of Children's Hospital. The hospital is one of the top pediatric centers for safety and quality because of decreases in central line associated blood stream infections, surgical site infections and ventilator associated pneumonias. The Children's Hospital NICU has had zero ventilator-associated pneumonia cases for the last two years due to better practices and higher standards. Learn more about patient safety at Children's Hospital.

Children's Hospital has been recognized across the country for spreading awareness about the NAS issue and the methods it has adopted.

In 2011, Children's Hospital staff created a new way to treat NAS babies. The NICU now uses small doses of morphine to help the babies through their withdrawal. The infants cannot become dependent on the morphine.

Our NICU has adopted new technology such as cooling caps to help babies with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy rest and recover.

Children's Hospital has 57 very experienced cuddlers who calm babies in the NICU. These volunteers hold babies, rock them to sleep and give them a human connection when parents are not there.

In 2012, Children's Hospital built a brand new NICU with 16 private rooms for NAS babies. In 2014, a $75 million expansion began, which included the addition of 44 private NICU rooms to improve the environment for both babies and their families.

The NICU's location in Children's Hospital means that all staff members are highly trained to work with and understand the special needs of children and their families.