What NICU Level of Care Does My Baby with ROP Need?


Admittance into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an integral part of the care provided to infants in need of extra medical attention immediately after birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, NICUs are categorized into four distinct levels of care, from Level 1 being for infants who need minimal monitoring to Level  4 offering the highest level of neonatal care available. The following is a generalized description of the different NICU levels as well as an overview of which newborns they serve:

  • Level 1 – Called “well newborn nurseries,” Level 1 NICUs provide the best care to babies born near full term and who are considered healthy. Level 1 NICUs can also help stabilize infants born severely premature in need of transfers to facilities able to provide higher levels of medical care.
  • Level 2 – Infants considered to be moderately ill with conditions that doctors expect will resolve quickly and without complications may be admitted into Level 2 NICUs. These units often have neonatologists, nurse practitioners with experience in neonatal care as well as the types of healthcare professionals also found in Level 1 NICUs.
  • Level 3 – Concentrating on providing care to babies born after less than 32 weeks of gestation, weighing less than approximately 3 pounds at birth and those with life-threatening illnesses, Level 3 NICUs have access to a wide range of pediatric specialists. This includes pediatric ophthalmologists who can screen for the eye disease retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
  • Level 4 – The highest available level of neonatal care, Level 4 NICUs are typically located in regional hospitals and provide all of the services of the other levels of NICUs in addition to having subspecialists located on site to treat babies in critical condition.

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