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Biol Neonate. 2005;87(4):254-61. Epub 2005 Feb 11.

Does gastroesophageal reflux cause apnea in preterm infants?

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Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and apnea are both common occurrences in premature infants but their relationship is controversial. We present the evidence for and against an association between GER and apnea and discuss the merits and limitations of the various methodologies employed in characterizing such a relationship. Overall, GER and apnea do not appear temporally related in preterm infants, despite strong physiologic evidence that stimulation of laryngeal afferents elicits central apnea and laryngeal adduction. In a subpopulation of infants with neurodevelopmental compromise, there may be an increased incidence of both apnea and GER, although the direct association between GER and apnea in this population is unclear. Therefore, we believe there is no evidence to support widespread use of anti-reflux medications in the treatment of apnea in preterm infants. Further studies are needed to clarify the existence of a small subpopulation of infants who may have GER-induced apnea, to identify potential triggering mechanisms, and to document benefit from newer pharmacological approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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