Moving Babies

Surgery on babies is carried out by paediatric and neonatal surgeons. As most neonatal units are not in the same building, or complex of buildings, as a children’s hospital with surgical staff and facilities, this means that some babies must be moved for surgery.

Babies are transferred by specialist senior doctors and nurses with specific training and experience of moving babies. Transport teams use equipment that has been designed for transport and which can provide for all the needs of the baby. The equipment can fit into ambulances, and sometimes aircraft, which have been specially modified.


Prior to transfer, the clinical team will stablise the baby by supporting breathing, and supporting circulation and blood pressure by the use of medications, fluids and blood products. They will insert lines into big veins to provide easier delivery of multiple medications and fluids, and insert a line into an artery to better monitor blood pressure and take blood samples. If this has not already started, they will start 2-3 different antibiotics, and start some pain relief, like morphine, through a drip. They will closely monitor vitals and blood parameters, including the amount of acid, oxygen, carbon dioxide and glucose in the baby’s blood. This can sometimes take hours, and in some situations it is a difficult balance between stabilising the baby and reaching the surgeon as soon as possible.

Very premature babies with severe NEC and bowel perforation are the most fragile patients to transfer between hospitals. They are only moved when the transport team are satisfied that they are sufficiently stable.

Can parents travel with their babies?

In certain circumstances, it may be possible for a parent to travel with their baby. The decision depends on the policy of the organisation operating the transport system and the judgement of the transfer team.

Disclaimer: This information has been produced using contributions to meetings of the Special Interest Group in Necrotizing Enterocolitis (SIGNEC). It is intended to help parents and their families to understand this serious condition and ways in which it is treated. It is not a substitute for discussion with those responsible for the care of a baby as every baby is unique. The ultimate judgement regarding a particular clinical procedure or treatment must be made by the clinician in the light of the clinical data presented and the diagnostic or treatment options available. While all reasonable efforts have been made to check the contents of external sites, links are not an endorsement of those sites.