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Free Content Arousal and ventilatory responses to mild hypoxia in sleeping preterm infants

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A failure to adequately respond to hypoxia has been implicated in the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Preterm infants are at increased risk for SIDS, thus we compared ventilatory and arousal responses to mild hypoxia [15% oxygen (O2)] in preterm and term infants. Eight preterm and 15 term infants were serially studied with daytime polysomnography during which nasal airflow was monitored by pneumotachograph at 2–5 weeks, 2–3 and 5–6 months. At each age, in both groups, hypoxia induced a significant decrease in oxygen saturation (SpO2) during both active sleep (AS) and quiet sleep (QS). Infants invariably aroused in AS; and in QS either aroused or failed to arouse. In preterm infants arousal latency in AS was longer than in term infants (P < 0.05) at 2–5 weeks. Compared with term infants, preterm infants reached significantly lower SpO2 levels at 2–5 weeks in both AS and QS non-arousing tests and at 2–3 months in QS. A biphasic hypoxic ventilatory response was observed in QS non-arousing tests in both groups of infants at all three ages. We conclude that the greater desaturation during a hypoxic challenge combined with the longer arousal latency in preterm infants could contribute to greater risk for SIDS.
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Keywords: arousal; preterm infants; sleep; sudden infant death syndrome

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research, Monash Institute for Medical Research 2: Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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