The Apnea Program, hosted at Austin Children’s Chest Associates, works in conjunction with the local Neonatal Intensive Care Units as a hospital follow-up clinic for infants discharged with apnea of infancy/prematurity. These babies are often sent home from the hospital on home cardio-respiratory event-recording monitors and sometimes on medications such as caffeine and theophylline.

What Is Apnea?

Apnea is a sleep disorder. It occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. If untreated, people with sleep apnea may stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, often hundreds of times a night.

Symptoms of Apnea

Apnea has various symptoms, including snoring followed by pauses or gasping, labored breathing while sleeping, and restless sleep. People suffering from apnea sometimes choose unusual sleeping positions. Children may also show signs of tiredness and have attention problems during the day.

Apnea Triggers

Apnea of prematurity affects infants born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Premature infants often have immature or under-developed brains and respiratory systems, which hinder their ability to control their own breathing normally.

Apnea of infancy occurs in children younger than 1 year of age who were born after a full-term pregnancy (37 or more weeks). Often, if no cause is found for the apnea, it might be considered a part of the child’s normal breathing pattern.

Apnea Treatment

Infants with apnea can be observed at home with the help of event-recording monitors. Monitor memories are downloaded in the office and interpreted by the physicians. The doctors will determine future treatment such as medications and further monitoring. Education about apnea monitoring and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) prevention is given to the parents at each visit. Other aspects of high-risk neonatal care are also discussed.

Pediatric Sleep Diagnostic Services are available at many Seton hospitals including Dell Children’s Medical Center. These diagnostic services include pneumocardiography (portable, small-scale sleep studies), pH probes (testing for the presence of gastro-esophageal reflux) and in-hospital cardio-respiratory event-recordings, which evaluate infants admitted for apparent life-threatening events (ALTE).