The health care team’s first priority is always to stabilize a premature baby, get him to breathe on his own, and address any other immediate problems. In general, the more premature the baby is, the more assistance and interventions he will need to be stabilized. Some problems will be immediately apparent. Other problems, if any, may take some time, even years in the case of brain problems, to diagnose.
There are many ways to diagnose medical problems in a premature baby. These range from a simple visual inspection of the baby, for example, noting the baby’s yellowish hue and suspecting jaundice, to more complex and invasive diagnostic techniques. For example, if premature baby is suspected of having an infection called meningitis, a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, may be required for a detailed diagnosis. Most procedures, however, are not so invasive and pose little or no risk to the premature baby. In general, diagnoses begin with the least invasive methods.