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Infant Sleep Apnea

Infant Apnea Center

Allegheny Health Network experts understand that babies may need home apnea (breathing) monitoring for apnea, bradycardia, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Breathing problems in infants may increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

The Infant Apnea Center at West Penn Hospital provides:

  • Evaluation of babies for breathing problems
  • Follow-up for babies who were discharged from the hospital on home oxygen or a breathing (apnea) monitor

Babies followed or evaluated in the Infant Apnea Center must continue to see their regular/referring doctor, who is responsible for their care. The center reports its findings and recommendations to the baby's referring doctor.

What is apnea?

Apnea is a pause or sudden stop in breathing. If breathing stops long enough, the baby's skin will change color, to bluish or grayish. Most apnea in babies is due to being born prematurely, before the breathing system is fully developed. Most babies with apnea due to prematurity "grow out of it."

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. Babies with bradycardia may not feed well and may be sluggish. The slow heart rate may cause them to faint and have a seizure.

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 (sudden infant death syndrome) is the sudden death of an infant in the first year of life that remains unexplained after a complete postmortem investigation, including an autopsy, an examination of the scene of death and a review of the clinical history.

In about half of babies who die of SIDS, autopsy findings suggest there might have been frequent periods of low oxygen levels. These results could be caused by recurring apnea.

Which Babies Does the Infant Apnea Center See?

The Infant Apnea Center sees babies discharged from West Penn Hospital or other Allegheny Health Network hospitals on home oxygen/apnea monitoring equipment. The Center also welcomes referrals from doctors of babies discharged from other hospitals on home oxygen/apnea monitoring equipment or who should be evaluated for apnea. Babies who should be evaluated include:

  • Infants who have periods when they stop breathing or have irregular breathing
  • Infants who have periods when they become limp or their skin turns pale or bluish or grayish
  • Infants born prematurely who have 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

What Services Does the Infant Apnea Center Offer?

The Infant Apnea Center provides these services:

  • Diagnostic testing, including:
    • Infant pneumograms (2-5 channels), a painless way to study a baby's breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels
    • Esophageal pH probe studies (to test for gastroesophageal reflux)
    • Infant sleep studies (multichannel polysomnography with nasal thermistor; requires an overnight stay at West Penn Hospital)
  • Home oxygen prescription
  • Monthly follow-up evaluation and download/evaluation of results for babies on monitoring equipment
  • Medication management for apnea and reflux
  • Infant CPR teaching for parents and caregivers
  • Coordination with monitor companies and insurance companies and visiting nurse referrals 

The Infant Apnea Center also performs follow-up testing to see when/if monitoring can be discontinued. All results are sent to the baby's referring doctor, who remains responsible for the baby's care.

Mailing address:
West Penn Hospital
Infant Apnea Center, Pediatrics Dept.
4800 Friendship Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Telephone:  412.578.5590