Periodic breathing in clinically stable very preterm infants

Alicia K. Yee, Leon S. Siriwardhana, Gillian M. Nixon, Lisa M. Walter, Flora Y. Wong, Rosemary S.C. Horne

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Objective: We aimed to investigate the frequency and severity of periodic breathing (PB) in clinically stable very preterm infants and identify infant and maternal factors associated with increased time spent and severity of PB in these infants. Method: Thirty-eight infants (28–32 weeks gestational age) who were ≥3 days off noninvasive respiratory support, were studied for 2–3 h with a daytime sleep study at 31–36 weeks postmenstrual age. Percent total sleep time spent in PB (%TSTPB) and time spent with SpO2 <90%, <80%, and cerebral oxygenation <55% during PB were calculated. Infant and maternal characteristics were correlated with %TSTPB and hypoxia during PB. Results: The majority of infants (92%) had at least one episode of PB and infants spent a median 9.1 [interquartile range: 1.2, 15.5] %TSTPB. 80%, 37%, and 37% of infants experienced SpO2 <90%, <80% and cerebral oxygenation <55%, respectively, during PB. Shorter duration of respiratory support, multigravida, multiparity, and maternal vitamin D deficiency were associated with higher %TSTPB. Multigravida, shorter duration on respiratory support, apnea of prematurity, and resuscitation at birth were associated with hypoxia during PB. Conclusions: The majority of very preterm infants exhibited PB when they were off respiratory support and considered clinically stable. The time spent in PB was very variable between infants and was associated with significant hypoxia in some infants. Fewer days spent on respiratory support was associated with both increased frequency and severity of PB. However, the potential contribution of PB to neurocognitive outcomes remains uncertain and warrants further investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-898
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • cerebral oxygenation
  • intermittent hypoxia
  • periodic breathing
  • preterm infants
  • respiratory support

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