There is much debate relating to possible abnormalities in respiratory control mechanisms in infants considered at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The P0.1 occlusion technique was used to assess the central respiratory response to hyperoxic hypercapnia during quiet sleep in 21 normal infants, 13 siblings of SIDS victims, and 17 infants with apparent life threatening events. The slope of P0.1 plotted against carbon dioxide concentration increased exponentially with age, independent of body weight in each group. Birth weight has a significant effect on slope with a lower weight predisposing to a lower slope. Siblings as a group had a significantly lower slope at any given age than normal infants, whereas the infants who had had apparent life threatening events were not significantly different from the controls. As intragroup variation in both siblings and control groups greatly exceeded the significant intergroup differences observed, the technique cannot identify individual infants as belonging to one or other group.
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