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Infant Apnea Center

The first of its kind in Pittsburgh, the Infant Apnea Center offers a comprehensive program to evaluate, manage and monitor babies with or at high risk for breathing problems such as apnea, bradycardia, bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Breathing problems in infants may increase their risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Primary healthcare responsibility for the infant remains with the baby’s primary doctor.

What is apnea?

Apnea is a pause or stop in breathing. In infants, apnea is considered abnormal when it occurs too often, lasts beyond 20 seconds, or is associated with a low heart rate (bradycardia) or a color change.


What is bradycardia?

Bradycardia is an abnormally slow heart rate. In babies, bradycardia is considered a heart rate of less than about 70 beats per minute. It is expected that the periods of slow heart rate are brief and end on their own by the time the infant is ready for discharge. If events of bradycardia are still present when the baby is otherwise ready for discharge, the baby may be sent home on a monitor that will alert parents when these episodes occur. Babies on home monitors are followed in the Infant Apnea Center to determine when it is safe to discontinue home monitoring.


What is bronchopulmonary dysplasia?

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a long-lasting (chronic) breathing (lung) condition that affects newborn babies who were born very early (prematurely) or were put on a breathing machine after birth.


What is SIDS?

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under 1 year that remains unexplained after the performance of a complete postmortem investigation, including an autopsy, an examination of the scene of death, and a review of the case history.

While research has not yet identified the cause of SIDS conclusively, it has cast some strong suspicions. As many as half of all SIDS deaths are found, upon autopsy, to suggest recurrent low oxygen levels. These results could be caused by recurrent apnea.



When should an infant undergo evaluation?

Babies who should undergo evaluation for breathing problems include:

  • Infants who stop breathing or demonstrate irregular respirations.
  • Infants who have experienced pale, dusky or limp episodes.
  • Premature infants with apnea and/or bradycardia that persists after 36 weeks gestation.
  • Infants who have breathing problems during feedings.
  • Infants at risk for prolonged apnea due to other medical problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux or seizures.
  • Infants whose siblings have died from SIDS.


Evaluation Procedures

The Infant Apnea Center staff can conduct sensitive respiratory (breathing) studies such as multichannel polysomnographic sleep evaluation with nasal thermistor – pneumocardiography, pulse oximetry - and esophageal pH probe studies.

Family Support

The Infant Apnea Center provides a variety of patient education materials and training, which includes teaching each family the techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  For those infants who require home monitoring, the Infant Apnea Center manages as many details as possible for parents during this stressful time. The staff contacts the equipment supply company, arranges for delivery of the monitor, and contacts the insurance company. The staff can also assist with referrals to visiting nurse services.

Infant Apnea Clinic

Continued close care is essential to the welfare of an infant with apnea and the child’s family.

Babies on home apnea monitors are scheduled for monthly visits to the Infant Apnea Center clinic where the baby is examined and the monitor results are downloaded and evaluated.

Babies on home oxygen are also seen in the clinic. If their prescription needs to be changed, the center's neonatologist will make this change and communicate it.

A report is sent to the baby's doctor with the baby's status and any recommendations.

Additional support is also available through the following:

  • Whenever necessary, the Center makes referrals to community health, nursing and social service agencies.
  • The monitor equipment provider offers 24-hour emergency service.
  • The Center’s staff arranges follow-up testing, and, when appropriate, recommends discontinuation of the monitor.


Contact Us

To learn more or refer a patient to the Infant Apnea Center, please call the center at 412.578.5590.


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