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Free Content Comparison of postnatal development of heart rate responses to trigeminal stimulation in sleeping preterm and term infants

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Autonomic dysfunction has been regarded as a possible cause of the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and it has been suggested that preterm infants, who are at a greater risk of SIDS than term infants, may have immature autonomic control. Our aim was to compare the maturation of cardiac autonomic control during sleep in preterm and term infants by examining heart rate responses to arousing and non-arousing trigeminal stimuli. Preterm infants (n = 15) and term infants (n = 24) were studied longitudinally with daytime polysomnography. Air-jet stimulation of the nares was delivered in both active sleep (AS) and quiet sleep (QS), and heart rate (HR) changes recorded for both arousal and non-arousal responses. Changes in HR (ΔHR%) were calculated as the relative differences between baseline HR (BHR) and either MaxHR (arousal) or MinHR (non-arousal). Comparisons of HR changes between sleep states and postnatal ages were made with two-wayanovafor repeated measures and between groups with two-wayanova. The increase in HR (ΔHR%) was greater in term than preterm infants (P < 0.05), but only at 2–3 weeks corrected postnatal age (CPA). In preterm infants, there were no differences in BHR between sleep states, whereas in term infants, BHR was higher in AS than in QS at 2–3 weeks and 2–3 months of age. The smaller ΔHR% to arousing stimuli in preterm infants compared with term infants at 2–3 weeks suggests that cardiac sympathetic activity in preterm infants may be lower than in term infants. This mechanism may account for the increased risk for SIDS of preterm infants.
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Keywords: arousal; heart rate; infants; non-arousal; sleep; sudden infant death syndrome

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Paediatrics, Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research 2: Department of Physiology, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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