The new millennium has brought innovative technologies and viewpoints to the neonatal intensive care unit .

The neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, is that special place in a veterinary clinic where premature, critical, and newborn foals receive intensive, round-the-clock care. The NICU handles everything from breathing problems to heart conditions to disease and more. If a foal's in trouble, it's the place to be.

Researchers from the U.K. (A. Borchers et al.) recently examined the survival and diagnoses of sick neonatal foals in a study published in abstract form in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. They identified the primary diagnoses for foals entering the NICU.

Thirteen university and private equine referral hospitals enrolled 643 foals over the 2008 foaling season to be considered for the study. Researchers identified approximately 25% of these foals as having perinatal asphyxia syndrome, commonly known as dummy foal syndrome (possibly resulting from inadequate oxygen supply at or around the time of birth), 16% as having diarrhea, 16% as having sepsis (blood infection), and 8-10% as being premature. The outcomes for these diagnoses were generally quite good: 90% of dummy foal patients, 60% of septic foals, 50% of premature foals, and 90% of foals with diarrhea were discharged.

So what has the new millennium brought to the NICU that has helped veterinarians reach these numbers? The age of information technology, instant communications, and medical innovations have had an impact on this critical unit of equine medicine. Add to the mix a more optimistic attitude toward treating t