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Episodic bradycardia in preterm infants.
  1. C J Upton,
  2. A D Milner,
  3. G M Stokes
  1. Department of Neonatal Medicine and Surgery, City Hospital, Nottingham.


    To analyse factors likely to precipitate bradycardia, 27 preterm infants born at 32 weeks' gestation or less were studied on 89 occasions. Polygraphic recordings of electrocardiography, oxygen saturation, and respiratory effort were made. Subsequently, upper airway flow was measured by a mask and pressure transducer. In 605 episodes detected during initial recordings, time of onset of bradycardia correlated positively with apnoea duration, with bradycardia often occurring as respiratory effort resumed. Airway closure occurred in 88% of apnoeas associated with bradycardia during flow measurements, and was significantly more common than in apnoea without bradycardia (64%). We suggest that bradycardia is most commonly a reflex response to the resumption of respiratory effort against a closed upper airway as apnoea is terminated, and that this reflex is potentiated by hypoxaemia.

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