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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005 Nov 15;149(1-3):257-71.

Postnatal development of ventilatory and arousal responses to hypoxia in human infants.

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Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research, Monash University, Level 5, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia.


During the first year of life there is significant maturation of the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) in human infants. Compared with adults, healthy term infants have an immature HVR until at least 6 months of age. There are few studies in infants on the effects of sleep state on the HVR but these suggest that at early postnatal ages there is initially no sleep-state related difference; this is followed by a developmental trend towards the adult situation in which the response is depressed in REM sleep compared with NREM. Maternal cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for SIDS and the mechanism for this may involve a depressed HVR in the exposed infant; however studies are limited and the wide variation in cigarette consumption makes interpretation of results difficult. Arousal responses to hypoxia are of vital importance and a failure to arouse has been implicated in SIDS. Sleeping infants frequently fail to arouse in response to hypoxia in QS, whereas in AS they invariably arouse; furthermore arousal latency is longer in QS compared with AS. The oxygen saturation at which infants arouse is not different between sleep states, suggesting that desaturation is more rapid in AS. In QS younger infants arouse more readily than at older ages and arousal is depressed by maternal smoking. These findings suggest that depression of the arousal response to hypoxia in AS may have life-threatening consequences. Infants at increased risk for SIDS have been shown to have both depressed ventilatory and arousal responses to hypoxia, thus they may be at even greater risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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