Apnea of prematurity: II. Respiratory reflexes

T. Gerhardt, E. Bancalari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Airway obstruction is a cause of apnea in preterm infants. The activity of protective respiratory reflexes was determined in 18 preterm infants with apnea (mean of 32 episodes of more than 20 seconds duration per day) and in 18 neonates without apnea used as control subjects. This was done in order to elucidate the role of respiratory reflexes in apnea of prematurity. The infants were matched for birth weight (1,068 g v 1,065 g), gestational age (30.2 weeks v 30.2 weeks), and postnatal age (8.6 days v 8.3 days). The airway occlusion technique was used to determine the inspiratory prolongation of the occluded breath and the effective elastance of the respiratory system. Inspiratory prolongation is a measure for the reflex influence on inspiratory duration, and effective elastance reflects load compensating ability. Inspiratory prolongation was 7.3% ± 33.5% in infants with apnea and 30.6% ± 22.7% in the control group (P < .025). Effective elastance was 1.1 ± 0.5 cm H2O/mL in the apneic group and 1.5 ± 0.5 cm H2O/mL in the infants without apnea (P < .025). The results indicate that during exposure to respiratory loads, the infants with apnea maintained inspiratory effort poorly and had a decreased ability for load compensation. Their respiratory reflexes were significantly more immature than the reflex activity of the infants without apnea. This functional immaturity of respiratory reflexes may be a contributing factor in the etiology of apnea of prematurity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-66
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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