Postoperative apnea in preterm infants

Anesthesiology. 1987 Apr;66(4):483-8. doi: 10.1097/00000542-198704000-00006.


Preterm infants may become apneic during the immediate post-operative period. To define this risk, the authors studied prospectively the breathing patterns of 47 preterm infants less than 60 weeks postconception with pneumocardiograms before and after general inhalational anesthesia. Eighteen infants (37%) had prolonged apnea (greater than 15 s) postoperatively, and an additional seven infants (14%) had short apnea (6-15 s) postoperatively. An infant's risk of prolonged and short postoperative apnea was related to a young postconceptional age (P less than 0.05) and to a history of necrotizing enterocolitis (P less than 0.01). Furthermore, as the postconceptional age of the infant increased, the risk of postoperative apnea decreased proportionately (P less than 0.025). Among the 18 infants with prolonged apnea, 83% experienced multiple apneic episodes. Manual stimulation was required in order for breathing to return in 13 (72%) of the infants. Breathing resumed spontaneously in four (22%) of the infants, and one infant required mechanical ventilation due to repeated prolonged apnea. The first apneic event occurred within 2 h postoperatively in 13 of the infants (72%); the remaining five infants (28%) had their initial apneic episode as late as 12 h after operation. The postoperative time to the last prolonged apneic event was inversely related to the postconceptional age (P less than 0.01, r = -0.70) and extended up to 48 h postoperatively. The preoperative pneumocardiogram was not a reliable test for predicting postoperative apnea (sensitivity 56%, specificity 83%).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Inhalation*
  • Apnea / etiology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk