Objective. To determine whether episodes of prolonged hypoxemia occur without prolonged apneic pauses (≥20 seconds) and without bradycardia (pulse rate, ≤100 beats per minute) in apparently well preterm infants.
Methods. Long-term recordings of arterial oxygen saturation as measured by pulse oximetry (SpO2), photoplethysmographic (pulse) waveforms from the oximeter, and breathing movements were performed in 96 preterm infants (median gestational age at birth, 34 weeks; range, 28 to 36 weeks) who were breathing room air. Recordings started at a median age of 4 days (range, 1 to 60 days).
Results. During a median duration of recording of 25 hours, 88 episodes in which SpO2 fell to 80% or less and remained there for 20 seconds or longer were identified in 15 infants. The median duration of these prolonged desaturations was 27 seconds (range, 20 to 81 seconds). In 73 episodes (83%), SpO2 continued to fall to 60% or less. Twenty-three desaturations were associated with prolonged apneic pauses and 54 with bradycardia; 19 of these were associated with both apnea and bradycardia. Thirty desaturations (34%; 10 infants) occurred without bradycardia and without prolonged apnea.
Conclusions. These results indicate that a proportion of apparently well preterm infants exhibit episodes of severe prolonged hypoxemia unaccompanied by prolonged apneic pauses or bradycardia. Such episodes, therefore, would be difficult to detect if only breathing movements and heart rate are monitored. Indications for the use of oxygenation monitors in preterm infants should be reconsidered.
- Received August 2, 1994.
- Accepted October 26, 1994.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics