Skip Navigation

Search Knowledgebase

Apnea of Prematurity

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 development.

After apnea spells have stopped for a week or more, they usually do not recur.

Last Revised: March 22, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.