Effects of prematurity on heart rate control: implications for sudden infant death syndrome

Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2006 May;4(3):335-43. doi: 10.1586/14779072.4.3.335.


In Western countries, 5-11% of all infants are born before 37 weeks of gestation, and with improvements in modern intensive care techniques the number of these preterm infants that survive continues to increase. Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of neonatal morbidity and mortality in developed countries, accounting for 60-80% of infant deaths in those without congenital anomalies. Furthermore, in the post-neonatal period, preterm infants are at four-times greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome. It has been suggested that this increased risk is due to immature autonomic control. This article provides an overview of studies assessing autonomic control of the cardiovascular system in preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / physiopathology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*