The limited management options for apnoea of prematurity

Joseph V. Pergolizzi, Prem Fort, Thomas L. Miller, Jo Ann LeQuang, Robert B. Raffa

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


What is known and Objective: About 10% of all infants are born prematurely. Almost all of those of gestational age less than about 30 weeks, and about half of those of gestational age up to about 35 weeks, are subject to unpredictable interruptions of breathing—known as “apnoea of prematurity” (AOP). We present a synopsis of the problem and point out the limited management options. Comment: A basal rate for spontaneous breathing is normally maintained by integrated action of generator cells in the brainstem and feedback from central and peripheral chemosensors. In AOP, there are intermittent periods (seconds) lacking spontaneous firing, which results in hypoxia and hypercapnia. The long-term consequences of these interruptions in oxygen supply to tissues are not known. Although many treatment modalities are used, including drug therapy, nonpharmacologic care and mechanical intervention, there is no universally effective first-line management for AOP. Caffeine citrate is generally the most frequently used pharmacotherapeutic agent, but its side effect profile narrows with higher doses and the upper limit is still being investigated to discern the greatest benefit-to-risk ratio; thus, most infants do not achieve complete resolution of apnoeas. What is new and Conclusion: Given the widespread and serious nature of the problem of AOP, there is a surprising lack of treatment options. A more consistent and effective treatment, alone or as adjunct, would be welcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-401
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Apnoea
  • Caffeine
  • Non-pharmacologic
  • Pharmacologic
  • Prematurity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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