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Apnea Of Prematurity


Apnea of prematurity (AOP), is a breathing problem in a premature baby. A baby is premature if he is born earlier than 37 weeks gestation. A baby normally breathes in every 2 seconds. With AOP, there is a pause in breathing for at least 15 to 20 seconds. AOP may also be a pause in breathing of any length when it is combined a slow heartbeat and bluish or pale skin or fingernails.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


  • Stimulants: Your baby may be given medicine to make blood flow and breathing go faster.


Your baby may need to be watched using one or more of the following:

  • Cardiorespiratory Monitor: This monitor counts both the number of breaths and heartbeats. It will sound an alarm if the number goes lower than a set number.
  • Nasal thermistor: This monitor checks for airflow through the nose This helps detect apnea due to a block in the airway.
  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your child's foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your child's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

Nasogastric tube:

This is also called an NG tube. An NG tube is inserted into your baby's nose and into his stomach. An NG tube will either be used for suction or to feed your baby. The suction may be needed if a healthcare provider wants to empty your baby's stomach. Your baby may need this tube for feeding if he has problems eating through his mouth. Try not to let your baby pull on the NG tube. Tell a healthcare provider if the tube comes out of your baby's nose.

Respiratory care:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A CPAP machine is used to keep your baby's airway open during sleep. With CPAP your baby wears a mask over his nose. The mask is held in place by soft elastic straps that go around your baby's head. The mask is hooked up to the CPAP machine. The machine blows a gentle stream of air into the mask when your baby breathes. The stream of air helps keep his airway open so he can breathe more regularly. Extra oxygen may also be given through the machine.
  • ET tube: Your child may need an endotracheal (ET) tube to help him breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ET tube will be taken out when your child is breathing better.
  • Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Suction: This is a small tube that is placed in your baby's mouth or nose. This tube will help suck out the liquid in your baby's mouth, nose, and lungs. This may help your baby breathe easier.


  • Blood gases: These tests are also called arterial blood gases (ABGs). Blood is taken from an artery usually in your child's wrist. ABGs may be done if your child has trouble breathing or other problems caused by his illness.


Medicines for treating AOP may cause decreased bone density, anemia (low blood count), or poor weight gain. Being hooked to a monitor or ventilator may make your baby uncomfortable. If left untreated, the apnea may cause low oxygen levels and affect your baby's heart and brain. Your baby may also have problems with his development, such as blindness, deafness, or learning problems. AOP can be life-threatening if it is not controlled with medicine or treatment.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Apnea Of Prematurity (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes