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Gastro-oesophageal reflux increases the number of apnoeas in very preterm infants
  1. L Corvaglia,
  2. D Zama,
  3. S Gualdi,
  4. M Ferlini,
  5. A Aceti,
  6. G Faldella
  1. Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  1. Luigi Corvaglia, Neonatologia e Terapia Intensiva Neonatale, Via Massarenti, 11. 40138 Bologna, Italy; luigi.corvaglia{at}


Objective: To document the existence of a relationship between apnoea of prematurity (AOP) and gastro-oesophageal reflux (GER) in preterm infants.

Setting: Neonatal intensive care unit.

Patients: Twenty-six preterm infants (gestational age ⩽32 weeks) with recurrent apnoeas.

Intervention: Simultaneous and synchronised recording of polysomnography and pH-impedance monitoring (pH-MII). Polysomnography detects and characterises apnoeas, by recording of breathing movement, nasal airflow, electrocardiogram and pulse oximeter saturation. pH-MII is the state-of-the-art methodology for GER detection in preterm newborns.

Main outcome measures: Relationship between AOP and GER, which were considered temporally related if both started within 30 seconds of each other.

Results: One hundred and fifty-four apnoeas out of 1136 were temporally related to GER. The frequency of apnoea during the 1-minute time around the onset of GER was significantly higher than the frequency detected in the GER-free period (p = 0.03). Furthermore, the frequency of apnoea in the 30 seconds after GER (GER-triggered apnoeas) was greater than that detected in the 30 seconds before (p = 0.01). A great inter-individual variability was documented in the proportion of GER-triggered apnoeas. A strong correlation between total number of apnoeas and the difference between apnoeas detected 30 seconds after and before GER was found (p = 0.034).

Conclusions: Our data show that a variable rate of apnoeas can be triggered by GER in very preterm infants. Further studies are needed to recognise clinical features that identify those patients who are more susceptible to GER-triggered apnoeas.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Patient consent: Parental consent obtained.