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J Perinatol. 2009 Mar;29(3):209-12. doi: 10.1038/jp.2008.226. Epub 2009 Jan 15.

Apnea, bradycardia and desaturation in preterm infants before and after feeding.

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  • 1Carillion Roanoke Community Hospital, Roanoke, VA, USA.



A common clinical impression is that both gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and cardiorespiratory events increase after feeding in preterm infants. We aimed to measure objectively the effects of feeding on GER, apnea, bradycardia and desaturations.


We conducted a retrospective review of premature infants with a gestational age of 23 to 37 weeks at birth and a post-conceptional age of 34 to 48 weeks, who were referred for multichannel intraluminal impedance (MII), pH probe and 12-h apnea evaluation. Cardiorespiratory and GER event rates during pre- and post-feeding intervals were compared.


Thirty-six infants met the inclusion criteria. More GER events occurred after a feed than before (P=0.012). After feeds, reflux was less acidic and higher in the esophagus (P<0.05). In contrast, the rates of apnea, bradycardia and desaturations were not altered by infant feeding. Apnea of >5 s occurred at a median frequency of 0 (range 0 to 3) events per hour before a feed and 0 (0 to 2) events per hour after a feed (P=0.61).


The frequency, height and pH of GER are significantly altered by feedings in preterm infants. However, the common clinical impression that apnea, bradycardia and desaturations are more prevalent after feeding is not supported.

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