Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Central Apnea

Central apnea occurs when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn't start or properly maintain the breathing process. In very premature infants, it's seen fairly commonly because the respiratory center in the brain is immature. Other than being seen in premature infants, central apnea is the least common form of apnea and often has a neurological cause.

Mixed Apnea

Mixed apnea is a combination of central and obstructive apnea and is seen particularly in infants or young children who have abnormal control of breathing. Mixed apnea may occur when a child is awake or asleep.

Conditions Associated With Apnea

Apnea can be seen in connection with:

Apparent Life-Threatening Events (ALTEs)

An ALTE itself is not a sleep disorder — it's a serious event with a combination of apnea and change in color, change in muscle tone, choking, or gagging. Call 911 immediately if your child shows the signs of an ALTE.

ALTEs, especially in young infants, are often associated with medical conditions that require treatment Examples of these medical conditions include gastroesophogeal reflux (GERD), infections, or neurological disorders. ALTEs are scary to observe, but can be uncomplicated and may not happen again. However, any child who has an ALTE should be seen and evaluated immediately.

Apnea of Prematurity (AOP)

AOP can occur in infants who are born prematurely (before 34 weeks of pregnancy). Because the brain or respiratory system may be immature or underdeveloped, the baby may not be able to regulate his or her own breathing normally. AOP can be obstructive, central, or mixed.

Treatment for AOP can involve the following:

  • keeping the infant's head and neck straight (premature babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep to help keep the airways clear)
  • medications to stimulate the respiratory system
  • continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) — to keep the airway open with the help of forced air through a nose mask
  • oxygen


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