Skip to main content

Virtual visit appointments available 7 days a week from 9:00am to 11:00pm. Learn More

COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Updates: Get the latest on vaccine information, in-person appointments, virtual visits and more. Learn More

What Do NICU Levels Mean?

Many hospitals have Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), but not all NICUs are the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics differentiates between units by defining levels of care based on the complexity of medical conditions the facility is equipped to treat. We hope this will help you better understand the different levels of care in the NICU: Level I: Regular nursery care available at most hospitals that deliver babies. Level II: Intensive care for sick and premature infants. Level III: Comprehensive care for more seriously ill newborns. Level IV: Major surgery, surgical repair of serious congenital heart and anomolies that require cardiopulmonary bypass and/or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for medical conditions. Level IV units include the capabilities of level III with additional capabilities and considerable experience in the care of the most complex and critically ill newborn infants and should have pediatric medical and pediatric surgical specialty consultants continuously available 24 hours a day. Many area hospitals have level II or III NICUs but are not equipped to provide the most advanced level of care some newborns need. Texas Children’s Newborn Center is one of the only level IV NICUs in the Houston region able to provide babies with the highest level of care. In fact, many area hospitals with less advanced NICUs transfer infants to us when more experience and specialized care is required. For more information about Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, visit here.

Dr. Patricia G. Bondurant DNP, RN