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Apnea, Pediatric

Apnea, Pediatric is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Absence of respiratory airflow for a period of 20 sec, with or without decreased heart rate:
    • Central apnea:
      • Disruption in the generation or propagation of respiratory signals in the brainstem and descending neuromuscular pathways
    • Obstructive apnea:
      • Respiratory effort is present, but there is no airflow
      • Structural airway obstruction, often with paradoxical chest wall movement
      • Functional obstruction from airway collapse
    • Mixed
  • Apparent life-threatening event (ALTE):
    • Episode that is associated with a combination of apnea, color change, change in tone, choking, or gagging
    • A clinical presentation, not a diagnosis


  • Infection:
    • Sepsis
    • Meningitis or encephalitis
    • Pneumonia
    • Pertussis/chlamydia
    • RSV and other viral respiratory infections
  • Respiratory:
    • Obstructive airway lesions
      • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
      • Vocal cord dysfunction
      • Laryngotracheomalacia
      • Vascular ring
      • Foreign body
      • Craniofacial abnormality
      • Choanal atresia or stenosis
    • Functional obstruction from airway collapse
    • Infection
    • Immaturity/prematurity
    • Abnormal ventilatory response to hypoxia/hypercarbia
  • Neurologic:
    • Seizure
    • Intracranial hemorrhage
    • Increased intracranial pressure
    • Tumor
    • Arnold–Chiari or other CNS malformation
    • Ingestion
    • Toxin
    • Carbon monoxide
    • Hypoxic injury
    • Neuromuscular disorder
    • Central hypoventilation syndrome
  • Cardiac:
    • Dysrhythmia
    • Congenital heart disease
    • CHF
    • Myocarditis
    • Cardiomyopathy
  • GI:
    • GERD
    • Volvulus
    • Intussusception
  • Child abuse
  • Endocrine/metabolic:
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Electrolyte disorders
    • Inborn errors of metabolism
  • Other:
    • Transient choking episode
    • Laryngospasm
    • Periodic breathing
    • Breath-holding spell

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Apnea, Pediatric." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307125/all/Apnea__Pediatric.
Apnea, Pediatric. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307125/all/Apnea__Pediatric. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Apnea, Pediatric. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307125/all/Apnea__Pediatric
Apnea, Pediatric [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 25]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307125/all/Apnea__Pediatric.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Apnea, Pediatric ID - 307125 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307125/all/Apnea__Pediatric PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -