Cardiovascular reflex responses have been studied in 9 newborn preterm infants with apnoeic episodes and in 2 preterm infants with periodic breathing. Respiration, blood pressure, heart rate, and peripheral blood flow were simultaneously recorded. Peripheral blood flow was measured in the leg by venous occlusion plethysmography. During apnoea, bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction occur. There is little change in blood pressure though pulse pressure increases. No cardiovascular changes were seen before the onset of apnoea. Periodic breathing had little effect on peripheral blood flow. Preterm infants with gestations as low as 27 weeks apparently have well developed chemoreceptor reflexes which would tend to preserve blood supply to the brain during conditions of hypoxia.
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