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Highest Level of Care

Whether your baby is low-risk or the most critically ill infant, as a Level IV NICU, you can trust that your baby will receive that highest level of care here at Cook Children's. And for us, that goes well beyond the advanced technologies and medical expertise you'll find here. It's also about the personal attention given to the one child that matters most, yours.

Defining NICU levels of care

All NICUs help babies who need extra care. However, not all NICUs are equipped to care for the most fragile babies. There are actually four different levels of care – so what are they, and what do they mean when it comes to the care of your baby? The following are how the American Academy of Pediatrics defines the four levels of neonatal care:

Level I (basic newborn care)

Pediatricians, family doctors and advanced practice nurses stabilize and provide care for low-risk newborns who are born as early as 35 weeks' gestation, and are prepared to stabilize sick newborns for transfer to a higher-level NICU.

Level II (advanced newborn care)

A Level II special care nursery must have the same capabilities as a Level I nursery, and more. Pediatric hospitalists (pediatricians working primarily, or only, in hospitals), neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners must be able to care for infants born as early as 32 weeks' gestation; to provide care for infants recovering after intensive care; to provide brief mechanical ventilation or continuous positive airway pressure, or both; and, sometimes, to provide intravenous nutrition for babies not yet able to feed.

Level III (subspecialty newborn care)

A Level III NICU must have all of the Level II capabilities, and more. It must have quick access to a full range of pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical subspecialists, pediatric anesthesiologists and pediatric ophthalmologists. A Level III NICU must be able to provide sustained life support, sustained respiratory (breathing) support and advanced imaging, with interpretation on an urgent basis. In addition, it must either be able to provide surgery for common complications of prematurity and common birth defects or have an affiliation with a Level IV NICU.

Level IV (highest level of care)

A Level IV NICU, such as Cook Children's, must have all of the Level III capabilities, and more. It must be located within a hospital that can provide surgery for complex conditions that are present at birth or that develop soon after delivery. A full range of pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical subspecialists and pediatric anesthesiologists must be available on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Level IV NICUs must also facilitate patient transport and provide outreach education to other providers.

We're here to help.

If you would like to schedule an appointment for a NICU tour, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 855-687-6428.