Background. Apnea of prematurity remains among the most commonly diagnosed conditions in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit and may prolong hospital stays in some infants. Because survival of extremely premature infants has improved markedly, the natural history of apnea in this population needs to be reassessed. Objective. To document the natural history of recurrent apnea and/or bradycardia events in infants delivered at 24 to 28 weeks' gestation. Methods. Medical records of all infants delivered at 24 to 28 weeks' gestation admitted to the Brigham and Women's Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit between January 1989 and March 1994 were reviewed to document the clinical course of apnea of prematurity. Subjects were included in the study sample if they were discharged home from the Brigham and Women's Hospital or after transfer to an affiliated hospital. Recordings of apnea and/or bradycardia events were based on nursing observations of monitor alarms and assessment of the infant's condition. Results. Of 487 eligible infants, 226 were included in the study sample and stratified by gestational age at birth assigned by the attending neonatologist. The time to resolution of recurrent apnea/bradycardia events was longer with lower gestational age at birth. Apnea/bradycardia events were frequently observed beyond 36 weeks' postconceptional age in all gestational age groups. The incidence of apnea persisting beyond 38 weeks postconceptional age was significantly higher in the 24- to 27-week infants combined compared with the 28-week infants. Conclusions. Apnea of prematurity frequently persists beyond term gestation in infants delivered at 24 to 28 weeks' gestational age. These persistent apnea and/or bradycardia events may contribute to prolonged hospitalization. Programs to promote earlier discharge of premature infants should take into account the variability in resolution of apnea and specifically address management of persistent apnea.
- Control of breathing
- Discharge planning
- Extremely low birth weight infant
- Physiologic monitoring
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health