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St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital earns highest NICU designation to care for tiniest newborns

Jul 28, 2020

St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital has earned Level IV NICU designation for its ability to care for the youngest and sickest newborns. There are only 20 hospitals in Texas with Level IV NICU designation.

Most pregnancies go well, without complications, and most moms give birth to full term, healthy babies. But if there are pregnancy complications that could affect the health of the baby, or if the baby has a condition that needs specialized medical care at birth, babies need a higher level of care, something a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can provide.

“This is important for families in our area,” said neonatologist Christine Aune, MD, St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital NICU Medical Director. “Having a Level IV designation means that we can care for babies with complex issues, and keep them close to home.”

The NICU at St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital is 36 beds and can care for babies born as young as 22-weeks of gestation and older. The smallest baby born in the St. Luke’s NICU has been 13 ounces. The hospital’s multidisciplinary NICU team includes Maternal/Fetal Medicine physicians, neonatal surgical specialists and a variety of therapy services to handle high risk pregnancies and deliveries.

“Level IV designation is the highest level of neonatal intensive care a hospital can provide, this designation can give peace of mind for parents that we are here to provide the best care available no matter the situation,” said Philip Koovakada, St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital CEO.

Baptist Health System is the first and only healthcare system in San Antonio with access to two Level IV NICU’s. The combined 100 licensed Level IV NICU beds at North Central Baptist and St. Luke’s Baptist offer San Antonio and surrounding counties increased access to higher acuity neonatal and pediatric surgical services.

There are four levels of NICU care. Level IV NICU’s are the highest level and offer the most acute care for babies as young as 22 weeks. Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Units have clinical teams who take care of pre-term babies, babies who need special care or surgery for birth defects and other disorders. These nurseries have a full range of health care providers including pediatric subspecialists, specialized nurses and equipment to care for very sick babies.

Every year 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks). Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age. Ten to 15% of babies born in the US, or about 500,000, will end up in a NICU due to prematurity, genetic defect or illness.

Certain pregnancy complications may require a higher level of care for babies after birth. Some of these include:

  • Serious chronic medical conditions, including heart disease and severe obesity
  • High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, heart problems, HIV/AIDS and bleeding disorders
  • Having a premature baby in the past. A premature baby is one who is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Having a low-birthweight baby in the past. Low birthweight is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
  • Having a baby with a birth defect in the past
  • Being pregnant with a baby with a birth defect or other health condition
  • Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more)
  • Being physically or sexually abused
  • Being addicted to drugs

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