Neonatal respiratory inhibition

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2022 Dec;35(25):7132-7138. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2021.1944094. Epub 2021 Jun 28.


Objective: To present information on neonatal respiratory inhibition (NRI) to the medical staff caring for infants.

Methods: The author reviewed investigations of the above conditions. NRI is defined as severe hypoxemia accompanied by clinical manifestations of central cyanosis and a decrease in SpO2 to less than 70%. Neonatal respiratory inhibition consists of respiratory inhibition after crying (RIAC), feeding hypoxemia, and respiratory inhibition after gastroesophageal reflux (RIGER). The infants were monitored continuously via pulse oximetry from birth until discharge. To identify the details of NRI, we analyzed detailed notes taken by both parents and medical staff during monitoring using specific software designed to interpret pulse oximetry measurements.

Results: Among infants who weighed at least 2000 g and who were born at a gestational age of at least 36 weeks, NRI was observed in ∼50% of infants, including RIAC in ∼25%, feeding hypoxemia in 40%, and RIGER in 2 ∼ 4%, respectively. Among the infants with NRI, ∼40% experienced one or more episodes of prolonged cyanosis for at least 60 s. RIAC, feeding hypoxemia, and RIGER is significantly associated with each other. Among perinatal factors, NRI was related to maternal diabetes mellitus, twin pregnancy, asymmetric intrauterine growth restriction, threatened premature labor, cesarean section, shorter gestational periods, and abnormal ultrasound findings, including increased echogenicity in the ganglionic eminence (GE), a cyst in the GE, a subependymal cyst, and slight lateral ventricular enlargement. Almost all infants with RIAC and RIGER, even those with severe cases, recovered until discharge around day 5. Despite the provision of nursing guidance in feeding control, ∼60% of infants experienced feeding hypoxemia continuously. The more frequently the infants experienced feeding hypoxemia, the more severe the degree of feeding hypoxemia became. Breastfeeding reduced the frequency and degree of feeding hypoxemia compared to bottle feeding. Approximately 40% of infants with feeding hypoxemia required additional feeding control after being discharged.

Conclusions: NRI is very common and occurs in many infants worldwide. The infants with NRI experienced repeated severe hypoxemia due to RIAC, feeding hypoxemia, and RIGER after birth. Breastfeeding and careful feeding control should be recommended to mothers of infants with repeated feeding hypoxemia. Spreading knowledge about NRI worldwide is very important.

Keywords: Infant; apparent life-threatening event; brief resolved unexplained event; hypoxemia; sudden infant death syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section*
  • Cyanosis
  • Cysts*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Oximetry
  • Pregnancy