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Neonatal Services (NICU)

Many hospitals offer intensive care units for newborns, but only a select few are rated by the American Academy of Pediatrics as Level 4 – the highest rating available – and even fewer are among the top 35 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. CHOC Children’s neonatal program is that and more. With three neonatal intensive care units, a team of board-certified neonatologists and special units just for small babies and those who need complex surgery, no one on the West Coast is more dedicated to giving babies a healthy start.

CHOC provides high-level NICU care for your baby at three Orange County hospitals.

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CHOC Children’s Hospital NICU
1201 W. La Veta Ave.
Orange, CA 92868

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CHOC Children’s at
Mission Hospital NICU

27700 Medical Center Road
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

St. Joseph Hospital

CHOC Children’s NICU
at St. Joseph Hospital

1100 W. Stewart Drive
Orange, CA 92868

We proudly offer a Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CHOC Children’s Orange, rated by the American Academy of Pediatrics at the highest level of care possible. Babies at Mission Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital are also cared for by CHOC specialists at our NICU locations within our partner hospitals.

CHOC Children’s Hospital NICU

Our 54-bed tertiary/quaternary NICU includes four multi-patient rooms, six single care rooms, four private rooms for “rooming in,” and two four-bed suites. With access to a full range of CHOC pediatric subspecialists, the NICU offers a life-saving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) unit – the only one of its kind in Orange County – as well as advanced respiratory support such as high-frequency ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide, advanced imaging without the need for anesthesia in many cases and innovative procedures including mandibular distraction and epidural anesthesia. Learn more about what to expect in the CHOC NICU.

CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital NICU

CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital, our “hospital within a hospital,” is located on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital and includes a state-of-the-art 22-bed, Level 3 NICU where we provide critical care for newborns. Our neonatal care teams are able to be present during high-risk births at Mission Hospital and our board-certified neonatologists are in-house 24 hours a day. The NICU has an all-RN nursing staff with special experience treating multiple births such as twins and triplets. Our staff is always in close communication with moms staying a few floors down, either on bed rest prior to delivery or recovering after delivery, to ensure they are comfortable and able to participate in their baby’s care. Learn more about our NICU at Mission Hospital.

CHOC Children’s NICU at St. Joseph Hospital

CHOC and St. Joseph Hospital partner with families at all stages of having a baby, from prenatal care to delivery, and critical care when needed. If a problem develops during delivery at St. Joseph, CHOC’s neonatal team is immediately available to stabilize the baby and begin treatment. These babies are then cared for in CHOC’s 13-bed, Level 2 NICU located inside St. Joseph with all-private rooms, just steps away from the hospital’s postpartum unit. Learn more about our NICU at St. Joseph Hospital.

Here for You, Before You Need Us

During the course of a pregnancy, prenatal testing may identify issues with your baby that will need attention immediately after birth. You have a choice about where to bring your baby for medical care. Our highly trained neonatologists and pediatric specialists will meet with your family before birth to discuss a comprehensive plan for transferring your baby to CHOC and mapping out the tests, procedures and treatments your baby will need. Talk to your obstetrician about making CHOC the preferred hospital for your baby after birth.

Special Units for the Unique Needs of Babies

CHOC Children's Hospital in Orange offers special units within the NICU to provide highly customized care for babies who are born between 24 and 28 weeks or weigh less than 1,000 grams, babies who need complex surgery, and babies who have neurological and cardiac concerns. You won't find this level of specialized care anywhere else on the West Coast.

The CHOC Children’s Small Baby Unit is a very special unit within our NICU where we care for the unique needs of the smallest and sickest babies. Designed for babies born at 27 weeks gestation or less or who weigh less than 1,000 grams, it is the only unit of its kind in the Orange County area. Its dim lighting and low noise levels are designed to aid in the babies’ development. Published studies show that babies born before 28 weeks gestation or weighing less than 1,000 grams do better in a dedicated, high-volume program like ours where the specially trained team provides guidelines-driven care. Learn more about our Small Baby Unit for preterm, premature and low birth weight babies.
We are one of only a handful of hospitals in the country to offer a surgical unit in our NICU, providing specialized care for babies who need surgery. Our neonatology and pediatric surgery teams collaborate at a level not seen at most hospitals, and together they have set specific standards for caring for babies who need surgery. Learn more about our Surgical NICU.
Special rooms of our NICU are designated for the Neurocritical NICU, where we have the expertise and equipment to carefully treat babies with neurological issues such as seizures, asphyxiation and brain damage. Our pediatric board-certified neurologists are available 24/7 to partner with our neonatologists to make a specialized treatment plan together for our patients. Learn more about our Neurocritical NICU.
The Cardiac NICU at CHOC provides comprehensive care for babies with congenital heart defects, including those complicated by prematurity, low birth weight or multi-organ disease. CHOC is the only hospital in Orange County that performs open heart surgery on newborns. Led by physicians who are dual-trained in both neonatal intensive care and cardiac intensive care, the eight-bed Cardiac NICU features the latest technology, including full ECMO support and the capability to perform emergency bedside surgery if needed. The Cardiac NICU promotes multidisciplinary collaboration with daily rounds between cardiac-neonatologists, pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and neonatal-cardiac nurses, and the unit is actively researching techniques to maximize neuro-developmental outcomes and minimize long-term complications.

Not All NICUs are Created Equal

Many hospitals have NICUs, but not all NICUs are the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) differentiates newborn care units by their ability to care for patients. At CHOC Children’s, we are proud to be a Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the AAP’s highest level.

What is Level 4 care?

Bringing a baby to our neonatal intensive care unit means that child will be provided the greatest care possible with the latest advances in medical treatment by specially trained physicians and nurses. Most hospitals offer Level 1 neonatal care. The basic care in these units includes a well-newborn nursery, the evaluation and postnatal care of healthy newborns, neonatal resuscitation and the stabilization of ill newborns so that they can be transferred to a more advanced hospital, like CHOC.

Beyond the first level, units are recognized as providing specialty neonatal care (Level 2) and intensive care (Level 3). As a Level 4 unit, we exceed the standards of a traditional NICU. We provide care to babies of all birthweights and gestational ages. Our pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists are on site to perform minor and major surgery—in some cases, even in the patient’s bed. We provide advanced respiratory support such as high-frequency ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide and offer prompt, on-site access to a full range of pediatric medical subspecialists. We also offer advanced imaging such as MRI with the ability to have experienced pediatric radiologists read those images quickly. We are also able to provide ECMO, cardiac critical care, therapeutic body cooling, real-time seizure monitoring and much more. Learn more about the life-saving technology used in our NICU.

Do Your Homework

While it is comforting for most parents to know that CHOC neonatologists—physicians specially trained to treat newborns and their unique health conditions—practice at or have privileges at hospitals throughout the region, it is important to research the actual level of care available at or near the hospital in which a child will be born. It is also important to note whether each given NICU provides the same level of care for all babies. Some hospitals can only provide higher levels of care for a small amount of babies; CHOC is licensed to provide Level 4 (Level IV) care for all of our patients. In many cases, our physicians may be able to be in the delivery rooms for at-risk babies, but if they do not have the life-saving equipment the baby needs close at hand, they will have to have the baby transported to CHOC Children’s.

Whether it's a premature birth, a birth defect or complications before birth, we're prepared for anything.


Parents and legal guardians are welcome in the NICU 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Other family and friends may visit anytime with the exception of 6:30-8, both a.m. and p.m. Learn more about visiting the NICU in our frequently asked questions.

CHOC Children’s Hospital NICU
1201 W. La Veta Ave.
Orange, CA 92868

Get directions to CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital NICU.
Get directions to CHOC Children’s NICU at St. Joseph Hospital.

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UC Irvine

CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine