Journal of Applied Physiology
Apnea is nearly universal among very low birth weight (VLBW) infants, and the associated bradycardia and desaturation may have detrimental consequences. We describe here very long ( > 60 s) central apnea events (VLAs) with bradycardia and desaturation, discovered using a computerized detection system applied to our database of over 100 infant years of electronic signals. Eighty-six VLAs occurred in 29 out of 335 VLBW infants. Eighteen of the 29 infants had a clinical event or condition possibly related to the VLA. Most VLAs occurred while infants were on nasal continuous positive airway pressure, supplemental oxygen, and caffeine. Apnea alarms on the bedside monitor activated in 66% of events, on average 28 s after cessation of breathing. Bradycardia alarms activated late, on average 64 s after cessation of breathing. Before VLAs oxygen saturation was unusually high, and during VLAs oxygen saturation and heart rate fell unusually slowly. We give measures of the relative severity of VLAs and theoretical calculations that describe the rate of decrease of oxygen saturation. A clinical conclusion is that very long apnea (VLA) events with bradycardia and desaturation are not rare. Apnea alarms failed to activate for about one-third of VLAs. It appears that neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) personnel respond quickly to bradycardia alarms but not consistently to apnea alarms. We speculate that more reliable apnea detection systems would improve patient safety in the NICU. A physiological conclusion is that the slow decrease of oxygen saturation is consistent with a physiological model based on assumed high values of initial oxygen saturation.
Mohr, M. A., Vergales, B. D., Lee, H., Clark, M. T., Lake, D. E., Mennen, A. C., ... & Delos, J. B. (2014). Very long apnea events in preterm infants. Journal of Applied Physiology, 118(5), 558-568.