In adult mammals, the path of a swallowed bolus of solid food crosses the laryngeal opening, so that coordination between respiration and deglutition is critical for airway protection. The nature of such coordination in preterm, low birth-weight infants with immature nervous systems, is not clear. Using preterm pigs as a model, two measures of respiration were recorded and then coordinated with a high-resolution cineradiographic record of swallowing Swallows, divided into three distinct events, began before inhalation ended, but expiration did not start until after the milk had passed around the laryngeal opening. These results support the idea that a high degree of coordination between swallowing and respiration exists in preterm infant pigs, although other aspects of the nervous system have not fully matured.
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