Contact the NICU
202-444-TINY (8469) The NICU is open 24 hours per day/7 days per week, but please refrain from calling the NICU during shift changes (7 to 8 a.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.).
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
3800 Reservoir Road., NW
Main Building, Third Floor
Washington, DC 20007
The family-centered Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Perinatal Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital offers expert care for critically ill newborns and mothers. Our compassionate and caring team understands that parents are likely to feel stressed or scared when their newborn requires NICU care. We are with you every step of the way.
We treat the following conditions
Conditions during pregnancy:
- Prematurity and multiple births
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
- Pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome
- Problems secondary to maternal conditions (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or other complex disorders)
- Genetic conditions
Conditions in newborns:
- Breathing problems
- Hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice)
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and other neurological and developmental problems
- Bowel obstruction and other gastrointestinal tract problems
- Retinopathy of prematurity
- Any other high-risk condition affecting newborns
Conditions during pregnancy
There are a number of conditions that can be diagnosed during pregnancy. The Perinatal Center at MedStar Georgetown can help manage these condition(s) during pregnancy while the NICU provides the appropriate level of care to the newborn after delivery.
Prematurity and multiple births
About 10 percent of all children in the U.S. are born before 37 weeks. Multiples are at the highest risk for premature birth of all newborns. About 50 percent of twins are born before full term, and the rate is even greater for higher-order multiples such as triplets.
Singletons can also be born prematurely. This is sometimes correlated to maternal health complications during pregnancy, but in many cases, there is no clear cause.
Premature infants often have low birth weight and may be born with underdeveloped organs or vulnerable immune systems. These babies may require care in the NICU, including:
- Monitoring to ensure healthy heartbeat, breathing, temperature, and blood pressure
- Assistance with feeding or breathing
- A controlled environment to decrease risk of infections
- Temperature regulation inside an incubator
- Treatment for jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Treatment of respiratory or heart problems
- Premature infants in the NICU also receive treatment for any of the conditions listed below in the ‘Conditions in Newborns’
We understand that having a premature baby can feel overwhelming, and our expert team is here to provide compassionate and expert care. Our multidisciplinary medical team has allowed us to achieve excellent survival rates that exceed national averages for preterm infants born as early as 23 weeks gestation. We are also proud to have low rates of complications that can be common in preterm infants. The NICU and Perinatal Center at MedStar Georgetown will ensure that you and your baby will be in the best of hands.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
IUGR is a condition that is typically diagnosed during pregnancy. Babies with IUGR have a lower-than-expected weight for their age.
Infants with IUGR may require care in the NICU. We help babies with IUGR get healthy and reach a safe weight before going home with their families by providing personalized, precision nutrition.
Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and may be associated with signs of liver or kidney dysfunction. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for you and your baby. Often, the most effective treatment is delivery of your baby at or before term. HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.
Complications Secondary to Maternal Conditions
Maternal and infant health are closely related. Maternal diabetes, thyroid disorders, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and cancer are among the conditions that can require specialized care for both mother and baby, during and after pregnancy. At MedStar Georgetown, our broad range of adult and pediatric medical and surgical specialties allow us to provide truly comprehensive care.
Conditions in newborns
Special care is available for babies in the NICU who require intensive medical attention after delivery. We also offer psychosocial support for mothers and families for the stress they can experience with having a baby in the NICU.
Newborns may experience breathing issues brought on by underdeveloped lungs, infections, birth defects, or difficulty during labor. Breathing problems may be treated with mechanical ventilators, medication, or surgery. We offer many types of respiratory support including CPAP, high flow nasal cannula, conventional ventilators, high-frequency jet and oscillatory ventilators, and inhaled nitric oxide therapy. We also offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary post-discharge follow-up care.
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): Most common in premature infants, RDS is a condition caused by an insufficient amount of a substance called pulmonary surfactant in babies’ lungs.
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD): BPD is a condition seen in premature babies who have had RDS and needed ventilation. Babies are sometimes sent home on oxygen and need additional treatments for reactive airways.
- Meconium aspiration syndrome: Full-term babies can develop severe breathing problems due to inhaling meconium (an infant’s first stool) during the process of labor. Babies with this condition may need a lot of support with breathing. We can provide several different forms of ventilation, including high-frequency ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide therapy. For babies who need additional support, we offer Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation(ECMO) to support breathing until their lungs recover.
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and diaphragmatic hernia: When babies are in the womb, they receive oxygen from the placenta. At birth, blood vessels in the lungs should expand and allow blood and oxygen to flow normally. When this transition does not happen, a serious breathing condition called PPHN can occur. PPHN is sometimes associated with a birth defect called diaphragmatic hernia.
- Apnea: Premature babies often have long pauses in their breathing or apnea. Apnea can cause a decrease in their oxygen levels (desaturation or “desats”) and/or a decrease in heart rate (bradycardia). This condition usually improves as babies mature. In the NICU, babies with apnea are monitored to ensure that they continue to breathe. Babies may require treatment with caffeine which stimulates the breathing center. We also offer ongoing follow-up care.
Infant jaundice is yellow discoloration of the newborn baby’s skin caused by the buildup of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance made when a baby breaks down red blood cells. Infant jaundice usually occurs because a baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to eliminate bilirubin in the bloodstream. In some babies, an underlying disease may cause jaundice. Jaundice is typically treated with phototherapy by using blue fluorescent lights that change bilirubin in the bloodstream to a form that can easily pass out of the body and help lower bilirubin levels.
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and other neurological and developmental problems
HHIE is a type of brain injury triggered by reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain, or asphyxia. HIE is sometimes caused by maternal health problems, complications during pregnancy, or complications during delivery.
In the NICU, babies with HIE receive rapid, expert care. Treatment focuses on supporting impaired organ function and may include the use of mechanical ventilation, control of seizures, and whole body cooling. MedStar Georgetown is the first hospital in the region to offer whole body cooling, an innovative and effective treatment to reduce brain injury.
Additionally, the NICU at MedStar Georgetown is well-equipped to provide treatment for a range of other developmental and neurological issues, including neonatal stroke. Our extensive medical and surgical team is always available to care for babies rapidly and effectively.
Bowel obstruction and other gastrointestinal tract problems
The bowel (intestines) plays an important part in the digestive process. Infants are sometimes born with congenital abnormalities or develop infections that affect the healthy functioning of the bowels.
Common types of bowel conditions seen in the NICU include:
- Bowel obstruction due to congenital abnormalities in the development of the small or large intestine.
- Bowel perforation, a condition in which a hole in the stomach or intestines allows food or stool to leak into an infant’s abdomen. This can cause infection and inflammation.
- Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious inflammatory condition of the bowel most common in premature infants.
- Gastroschisis and omphalocele, birth abnormalities in which an infant’s intestines are partially located outside of the body.
Treatment for bowel conditions depends on individual health needs. Some infants may only need medication or nonsurgical therapies, while others may require surgical procedures for more acute conditions. In fact, MedStar Georgetown is home to a nationally recognized transplant center for patients who may require this level of care. Our team carefully assesses each patient’s needs to deliver the appropriate care.
A genetic condition is caused by mutations in the genes or abnormalities in the number of chromosomes. Some of the genetic conditions seen in the NICU include Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, phenylketonuria (PKU), spina bifida, trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome), trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome), and Turner syndrome, among others.
Prenatal screening can help determine the risk of many genetic disorders. Our perinatal care teams offer advanced diagnostic testing that allows for accurate diagnosis prenatally and after delivery.
When a child is born with a genetic condition, he or she may require care in the NICU. Our geneticists work with families to provide tailored guidance and support for a variety of genetic conditions, symptoms, and severity.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
ROP is an eye condition that most commonly affects premature infants, particularly those born before 31 weeks of gestation. ROP is caused by abnormal development of blood vessels in the tissues behind the eye and can lead to blindness if not treated appropriately. However, due to the excellent care available for premature babies at MedStar Georgetown, severe ROP rates are extremely low (especially when compared to other NICUs).
Some infants with ROP require only monitoring during and after a NICU stay. Other infants may require more intensive treatment. Our team of pediatric ophthalmologists and retinal surgeons carefully monitor premature babies to prevent ROP and are able to provide advanced care as needed. We offer the most current treatments to reduce the risk of vision impairment or blindness including anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy, laser therapy, and retinal surgery.
If additional information is needed, please contact your medical provider.
Parents of babies at MedStar Georgetown NICU's may ask questions of the staff at any time. Click here for some frequently asked questions.