Mother feeding baby with breastFor most parents, especially the first-timers, seeing their newborn having difficulty breathing can be unsettling. Some parents can also find it worrisome if they noticed their baby has an abnormally slow heart rate.

While some instability in breathing and even heart rate may be normal even among healthy newborns, it is essential to recognize when it is a reason for concern. Here are some information every parent should know about infant “As and Bs” – apnea and bradycardia.

Apnea and Bradycardia: What Exactly Are They?

More prevalent in premature babies, apnea and bradycardia can also affect even full-term newborns. For premature babies, this is more likely to happen because their organs have not yet fully developed, including their heart and respiratory system.

  • Apnea

Neonatal apnea is described as the sudden cessation of breathing, which can last up to 20 seconds or more. It is a sleep-related breathing disorder that involves reductions and pauses in breathing that happen while the baby is sleeping.

Apnea is the complete pauses in breathing, while a partial reduction is called hypopneas. Although apnea is not a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a small percentage of those who died from it had apnea symptoms before their death.

  • Bradycardia

Neonatal bradycardia is a condition wherein an infant’s heart rate decreases by 30 bpm (beats per minute) from baseline. It is important to note that infants generally have faster heart rates compared to adults. In comparison, premature infants have faster heart rates than full-term infants. It is concerning when the baby’s heart rate falls below 100 bpm.

Why Do Apnea and Bradycardia Happen?

The most probable reason for neonatal apnea and bradycardia is prematurity. As mentioned, premature infants have underdeveloped organs. The heart and lungs are not yet fully functional. The brain center responsible for heart rate, for example, may not also be able to regularly send a signal to the heart to keep beating because it is immature.

Here are some more reasons why infants suffer from As and Bs:

  • Infection that is transmitted during pregnancy or birthing process
  • Low levels of oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia)
  • Obstruction in the infant’s airway
  • Suctioning or feeding tubes
  • An infant being subject to too much heat or cold
  • Bleeding or tissue damage in the brain
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Lung issues
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Neck position of infant (too bent or flexed)

Monitoring of Apnea and Bradycardia in Infants

It is important to closely observe the infant’s heart rate and breathing, especially if they are born prematurely. When the baby exhibits signs of apnea and bradycardia (slowed or cessation of breathing and decreased heart rate), he should be placed on monitors.

The monitors help detect the baby’s breathing and heart rate. When the monitor sounds, it can alert the medical staff to check on the baby if he is breathing or if his heart rate is falling.

Diagnosis and Management of Apnea and Bradycardia in Infants

A’s and B’s may be determined by conducting some diagnostic procedures, which may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Swab test (to check for viral or bacterial infections)
  • X-rays
  • Apnea study with a sleep specialist to determine underlying issues that may be involved, such as another medical condition or medication use.

Apnea and bradycardia in infants can be managed by:

  • Monitoring and Periodic Stimulation – the nurse may stimulate and “remind” the baby to breathe.
  • Medications – to stimulate the infant’s central nervous system, caffeine or other medications may be given like theophylline, aminophylline or carnitine.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP – this is air delivered under pressure through little tubes into the infant’s nose to keep his airway open.
  • Mechanical ventilation/breathing machine
  • Bradycardia treatment will depend on the underlying cause. A pediatric cardiologist can help evaluate infant bradycardia.

Get the Best Legal Assistance for Medical Errors Resulting in Birth Injuries

When properly managed by medical professionals, neonatal apnea and bradycardia can be corrected and pose no harmful and long-term effects on the baby. It is the medical professional’s responsibility to recognize, manage, and provide treatment for infants with As and Bs. Failure to do so can have severe and permanent consequences in the life of a child. That is considered medical malpractice.

Having dealt with cases like this, we understand how traumatic it is for your whole family to have your child suffer because of medical negligence. Our experienced birth injury lawyers in Michigan area can help.

Our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys at The Clark Law Office will help you get the compensation that your child deserves. The compensation may not undo the damage, and the pain and suffering your child and the whole family have suffered. It can, however, provide for medical costs and other expenses your child may need. Call us today for a free consultation.


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