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Heart rate changes during resuscitation of newly born infants <30 weeks gestation: an observational study
  1. Charmaine H Yam1,
  2. Jennifer A Dawson1,2,3,
  3. Georg M Schmölzer2,3,4,5,
  4. Colin J Morley1,2,3,
  5. Peter G Davis1,2,3
  1. 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2Neonatal Services, The Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia
  3. 3Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia
  4. 4Department of Paediatrics, Medical University, Graz, Austria
  5. 5The Ritchie Centre, Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jennifer Dawson, Neonatal Services, Newborn Research—7th floor, The Royal Women's Hospital, 20 Flemington Road, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia; Jennifer.dawson{at}


The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation recommends starting positive pressure ventilation (PPV) in the delivery room when heart rate (HR) <100 beats per min (bpm) and giving cardiac compressions when HR <60 bpm.

Objective To describe the effect of PPV on HR in infants <30 weeks gestation with HR <100 bpm in the first minutes after birth.

Study design Retrospective observational study of infants, <30 weeks gestation, born between 14 February 2007 and 28 February 2009 with HR <100 bpm soon after birth.

Methods Infants with a HR <100 bpm receiving PPV at birth were eligible for the study. Video recordings and respiratory physiological data were obtained during delivery room resuscitation and analysed to determine if the rate of change in HR varied with measures of PPV, for example, expiratory tidal volume.

Results It took a median (IQR) 73 (24–165) seconds of PPV for infants' HR to rise above 100 bpm and a median (IQR) 243 (191–351) seconds to rise above 120 bpm. There were large fluctuations in HR after reaching 100 bpm and before reaching 120 bpm. In 18/27 (67%) of infants the HR did not remain stable until a threshold of approximately 150 bpm was reached. In 6/27 (20%) of the infants the rise in HR was almost instantaneous. In the remaining 21/27 (80%) HR rise was more gradual. There was a poor correlation between time of HR increase to 120 bpm and tidal volume (p=0.13).

Conclusion It takes more than a minute for newly born infants <30 weeks gestation with a HR <100 bpm to achieve a HR above 100 bpm. In these infants HR does not stabilise until it reaches 120 bpm.

Statistics from


  • Funding JAD and GMS are past recipients of RWH Postgraduate Scholarships. GMS is a recipient of a Monash University International Postgraduate Research Scholarship. PGD has an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship. PGD and CJM hold an NHMRC Program Grant No. 384100 which partially funded this work.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the The Royal Women's Hospital Research and Ethics Committees.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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