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Statistical evaluation of respiratory control in infants to assess possible risk for the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

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We examined the application of statistical parameters related to respiratory control in order to assess possible risk for the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The suitability of these parameters was tested in 287 infants between 1 day and 6 months of age. Respiration of the infants was recorded during sleep, and duration and frequency of apneic spells was evaluated. All infants were patients of the department of pediatric surgery, and were free of pulmonary, cardiac or cerebral diseases. Of the investigated infants, 54 were assigned as an at risk group, for they had already had demonstrable serious or life threatening apneas or respiratory problems during anesthesia.

We computed the frequency distribution of sleep apnea durations, and calculated the respective probabilities for the occurrence of apnea of a certain duration according to age. By analogy with Shannon's well known definition of average information content we defined an entropy term, which formally agrees with the definition of entropy in thermodynamics. This statistical procedure seems to be well suited for the identification of disorders in respiration control possibly related to a risk for SIDS. All at risk infants were treated with aminophylline, and the respiratory state improved significantly in nearly all cases.

In some infants QT intervals were evaluated from the ECG recordings during sleep, but no significant differences between risk and control infants could be demonstrated.

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Correspondence to R. Haidmayer.

Additional information

This study was supported by the Austrian Research Fund

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Haidmayer, R., Pfeiffer, K.P., Kenner, T. et al. Statistical evaluation of respiratory control in infants to assess possible risk for the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Eur J Pediatr 138, 145–150 (1982).

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Key words

  • Respiration
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Aminophylline
  • QT interval
  • Postnatal period