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Pediatr Pulmonol. 2008 Oct;43(10):937-44. doi: 10.1002/ppul.20832.

Neonatal apnea: what's new?

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Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-6010, USA.


Apnea of prematurity (AOP) remains a major clinical problem in present day neonatology that warrants frequent evaluations and imposes challenges in therapeutic strategies. Although the pathogenesis of AOP is poorly understood, it is probably a manifestation of physiologic immaturity of breathing control rather than a pathologic disorder. Immature breathing responses to hypoxia, hypercapnia and exaggerated inhibitory pulmonary reflexes in preterm infants might also contribute to the occurrence or severity of AOP. Recent data suggest a role for genetic predisposition. Although typically resolve with maturation, the role of bradycardia and desaturation episodes associated with AOP in the development of sleep disorder breathing and neurodevelopmental delay needs further clarification. Pharmacological treatment with methylxanthines and CPAP remain the mainstay for treatment of AOP. However, recent studies have implicated central inhibitory neuromodulators including prostaglandins, GABA and adenosine in its pathogenesis, the fact that might provide future specific targets for treatment. This review will summarize new insights involving these issues as well as others involving the pathogenesis, treatment strategies and consequences of apnea in premature infants.

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