Objective: We investigated whether nursing in the head elevated tilt position (HETP), compared with the horizontal position, has any effect on the incidence of bradycardic and hypoxemic episodes in preterm infants.
Methods: Twelve spontaneously breathing preterm infants with idiopathic recurrent apnea were studied in a randomized controlled crossover trial. Nine infants were treated with aminophylline. Each spent a total of 24 hours in the horizontal prone position and a total of 24 hours in HETP (prone, 15 degrees). The position was changed in random order every 6 hours. Thoracic impedance, heart rate, and arterial oxygen saturation were recorded continuously. The frequency of isolated hypoxemia (arterial saturation <80%), of isolated bradycardia (heart rate <90 beats per minute), and of mixed events was analyzed and compared without knowledge of the allocated position.
Results: In total, there were significantly fewer bradycardic and/or hypoxemic episodes (28.2%) in HETP compared with the horizontal position (mean difference, 13.35 episodes/24 hours; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.9- 20.8). The decrease was largest for isolated hypoxemic episodes (48.5%; mean difference, 11.74 episodes/24 hours; 95% CI: 6.1-17.4). Isolated bradycardic episodes (mean difference, 2.27 episodes/24 hours; 95% CI: -0.78-5.31) and mixed events were not decreased significantly in HETP.
Conclusions: Nursing in a moderately tilted position (15 degrees) reduces hypoxemic events in preterm infants. This intervention is easy to apply, quickly reversible, and can be combined with drugs such as aminophylline.