Apnea is a pause in breathing for 20 seconds or more. Premature
infants younger than 32 to 34 weeks'
gestational age commonly have apneic spells, usually
while sleeping. During an apneic spell, an infant's blood oxygen level can drop
(oxygen desaturation, or "desat"), which is sometimes followed by a drop in
heart rate (bradycardia).
The cause of apnea of prematurity is poorly understood. It is known
to be related to the infant's immature neurological, muscular, and respiratory
After apnea spells have stopped for a week or more, they usually do not
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology